OHA calls on state to uphold trust obligations

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Last month, the documentary “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” was televised several times to bring attention to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ top priority this legislative session – updating and upholding the state’s Public Land Trust (PLT) obligations.

The film features historians, researchers, attorneys and community leaders as it documents a four decade struggle to get the state to fulfill its obligations to Hawaiians stemming from the loss of their ancestral lands. To further help the public understand what’s at stake, OHA has also published a white paper on the issue. At www.oha.org/plt you can stream the documentary and read OHA’s bill and accompanying white paper.

The Hawai‘i State Constitution mandates Hawaiians receive a fair pro rata share of income and proceeds from former Hawaiian Kingdom lands taken during the illegal overthrow and currently held by the state as the Public Land Trust. OHA is responsible for administering 20 percent of the PLT revenues for the betterment of conditions of Native Hawaiians. However, since 2006, revenues have been capped at $15.1 million, far short of Hawaiian’s fair share.

Are Hawaiians getting their 20% share from the Public Land Trust?
This graph shows how the $15.1 million cap keeps PLT revenue transferred to OHA well below 20 percent. – Source: Office of Hawaiian Affairs staff

Using current data from state agencies and historic agreements between OHA and state, OHA submitted a bill to the Legislature that would:

• Increase Hawaiians’ annual “interim” share from $15.1 million to $35 million;
• Transfer to OHA back-due revenue in the amount of $119 million, that should have been set aside over the past six years;
• Maintain state agency reporting requirements; and
• Convene a Public Land Trust Revenues committee every six years, to review and make recommendations on the amount of funds that should be set aside for Hawaiians.

Public Land Trust revenue is the primary source of funding for programs, grants and services that benefit both the Hawaiian and larger communities. OHA uses this revenue for programs, grants and services that have moved people off the street and into homes; supported small businesses and entrepreneurs from infancy to expansion; sent students to college or enabled them to pursue vocational training; and helped grassroots communities engage with government agencies and landowners in the stewardship and sustainability of our natural resources and environment.

The white paper explains how the $35 million annual share was calculated based on undisputed revenue streams subject to Native Hawaiians’ pro rata share. Using the “corrected” $35 million amount, the $119 million back-due revenue reflects the $19.9 million OHA was underpaid for each of the past six fiscal years.

OHA’s bill has been introduced in both legislative chambers as House Bill 1747 and Senate Bill 2136. To receive updates on the bills and other legislative efforts via email, and learn about opportunities to testify at upcoming hearings, sign up in the “Stay Engaged” form on our Legislative page at www.oha.org/legislation.