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OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

OHA Trustees reject proposal from House Speaker

“We are not asking for special treatment. We are asking for equal treatment,” Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey says.

HONOLULU (April 6, 2023) – The Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees, recognizing both the significance and time sensitivity of Hawaiʻi House Speaker Scott Saiki’s proposal regarding development plans for OHA’s land in Kaka‘ako Makai, convened a special meeting at its headquarters at Nā Lama Kukui in Iwilei today.

The proposal, articulated in writing per OHA’s request in an April 3 letter regarding Senate Bill No. 1235, SD2, HD1 (Proposed), followed an in-person meeting between Speaker Saiki, OHA Chair Carmen Hulu Lindsey, and other OHA trustees.

The meeting included an executive session where the Trustees carefully reviewed and discussed the proposal before returning to regular session for an open vote.

While OHA appreciates that Speaker Saiki clearly recognizes the overarching need to make OHA whole, and acknowledges the historic nature of his latest proposal, the Trustees nonetheless found that both the terms and funds offered remain far off the mark. As a result, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to reject the offer.

The Trustees and its advisors agree on several key reasons why the proposal could not be accepted. These include:

  1. The dollar values specified, in the aggregate, still represent a small fraction of the total make-whole value owed to OHA, notwithstanding the escape clauses regarding future state budget surpluses.
  2. The prohibition of residential development via a “perpetual easement” has too adverse of an impact on the future value of Hakuone lands, and thus its critical, long-term role as an economic engine for OHA and its beneficiaries.
  3. The use of future Public Land Trust obligations to pay off a past Public Land Trust obligation is not acceptable.

OHA gratefully acknowledges Speaker Saiki’s public overtures for a compromise, and for proposing a legislative solution so late in the current session—even entertaining the possibility of a special session. The Board of Trustees sincerely hopes that these developments reflect a much-needed thawing of entrenched positions and a meaningful start to open discussions and negotiations on this issue.

Ultimately, OHA maintains that the best and most appropriate venue for this debate is in public, at the Capitol, in both chambers of the legislature. As significant as these external negotiations are, OHA remains disappointed that a bill to repeal the restriction on residential development in Kaka‘ako Makai was not allowed a fair hearing in the House, despite progressing in the Senate.

“Let’s be clear: we are not asking for special treatment. We are asking for equal treatment,” says OHA Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey. “We are asking to be accorded the same privileges as the developers from the mainland whose towers continue to go up, unimpeded, just across from Hakuone.”

Lindsey further states: “I am tired of seeing Kānaka Maoli dominate the statistics for houselessness, incarceration, and serious diseases. It breaks my heart to see children living with their parents in encampments and on sidewalks. Our lāhui and future generations of our beneficiaries would reap the benefits that would flow from OHA’s development of Hakuone. We see it as an economic engine, a place close to the urban core, where we can showcase our culture, allow families to thrive, and encourage business growth. We believe it would be a positive step towards fulfilling our sacred mission to foster the well-being of Native Hawaiians.”

Learn more about Hakuone at www.hakuone.com.


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