News Briefs | August 2023


Mahalo to OHA NHRLF Board President Mike Tresler

Mahalo to Mike Tresler who has served as OHA’s Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund (NHRLF) board president and Kauaʻi Island director for the past six years. July 25, 2023 was his last in-person board meeting. Some of his many accomplishments include the rise in the number of Hua Kanu Business loans disbursed statewide and providing guidance for the program during and post pandemic. He was also integral in the design and launch of the Mahi ʻAi Business loan product in Spring 2023. Although Mike’s official last day is not until Sept. 30, 2023, NHRLF staff and the Board of Directors would like to mahalo him for his many years of service to NHRLF and the lāhui. L-R: Loan Processor Robert Crowell, Loan Underwriter Steve Barnes, Loan Officer Lareina Meinecke, Oʻahu Director and Board Vice President Liane Khim, Kauaʻi Director and Board President Mike Tresler, Loan Manager Aikūʻē Kalima, Oʻahu Director Juanita Wolfgramm, Hawaiʻi Director and Board Secretary Kirstin Kahaloa, and Maui Director Wayne Wong. – Photo: Lei Ayat-Verdadero

Hawaiʻi Land Trust Awarded $803,700 Grant from NOAA

Photo:Waiheʻe Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge
More than $800,000 in funding from NOAA will be used to restore the ecosystem and support cultural practices at Waiheʻe Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge. – Photo: HILT

Hawaiʻi Land Trust (HILT) was recently awarded an $803,700 federal grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate-Ready Coasts initiative.

HILT will use the funds to restore the Kapoho Loko Iʻa and Loʻi Kalo at its 277-acre Waiheʻe Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge on Maui.

HILT will work with the community to restore the flow of water to the taro fields and fishpond by building a ridge-to-reef model for collaborative land and ocean stewardship. The process will include outreach meetings, workshops, volunteer workdays and educational activities.

“We are grateful to NOAA for this opportunity to expand our engagement with the Waiheʻe and Waiehu communities in collaborative ecosystem stewardship and Native Hawaiian cultural practice,” said ʻOlu Campbell, HILT president and CEO. “We intend these efforts to connect people to ʻāina, improve ecosystem function, strengthen coastal resilience, and work toward the restoration of a sustainable, traditional food source.”

HILT has actively restored the native habitat and provided recreational opportunities for the community at the Waiheʻe Refuge for over 20 years.

$2 Million Awarded for Coral Restoration

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF) has awarded seven grants totaling more than $2 million to support coral restoration in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guåhan (Guam), and Hawaiʻi. The grants are funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The grants will support projects that directly contribute to coral restoration progression by providing the means for capacity building and/or restoration implementation.

“Climate change and other pressures are having disastrous effects on coral reefs around the world, including the waters surrounding U.S. Pacific Islands. Marine heatwaves like the one occurring right now in the southeastern U.S. demonstrate the need to act now to implement the restoration needed to stem the tide of reef degradation,” said Tj Tate, NMSF director of conservation.

Coral reef ecosystems are important to the overall health of the ocean and provide coastal protection. They contribute to island economies through fisheries, recreation and tourism. And they hold intrinsic cultural value to Indigenous Pacific peoples. Reefs are declining due to stressors including climate change impacts such as bleaching and ocean acidification, land-based sources of pollution, overfishing, and intensive human uses in some areas.

“Innovative conservation incorporates Indigenous and local knowledge and wisdom into the protection and restoration of habitat and recovery of species and must be supported,” said Joel R. Johnson, NMSF president and CEO. “Restoring marine ecosystems, building local capacity in diverse communities, and protecting biodiversity through sanctuary designation, all contribute to the climate resiliency of our ocean.”

Hawaiʻi grant recipients include: Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (HI DLNR); UH Hilo (Hawaiʻi Cooperative Fishery Research Unit), UH Mānoa (Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology), and The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi.

The projects will take place through the Summer of 2025.

DOI Provides $16 Million to Help Protect Hawaiian Forest Birds

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced in June that the department has committed nearly $16 million as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to prevent the imminent extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds.

The funding will support a new Hawaiian Forest Bird Conservation Keystone Initiative, which was unveiled as part of the department’s Restoration and Resilience Framework. The framework is guiding $2 billion in investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to restore lands and waters and advance climate resilience. Haaland announced the historic funding during remarks at the Hawai’i Conservation Conference in Honolulu.

“Hawaiian Forest Birds are a national treasure and represent an irreplaceable component of our natural heritage. Birds like the ʻiʻiwi, kiwikiu and ʻakikiki are found nowhere else in the world and have evolved over millennia to adapt to the distinct ecosystems and habitats of the Hawaiian Islands,” Haaland said. “We are working collaboratively with the Native Hawaiian community and our partners to protect Hawaiian Forest Birds now and for future generations.”

Historically, there were over 50 different species of honeycreeper birds in Hawaiʻi. That number is now down to just 17, due to a range of threats that have caused significant declines in their populations. Habitat loss, invasive species, climate change and disease, such as avian malaria spread by mosquitoes, are urgent challenges impacting bird species across Hawaiʻi.

Nahale-a Appointed to UH Board of Regents

Photo: Alapaki Nahale-a
Gov. Josh Green has named Alapaki Nahale-a as one of three interim appointees to the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents (BOR).

Nahale-a, former Gov. Neil Abercrombie and attorney Lauren Akitake will fill seats for five-year appointments, subject to confirmation by the Hawaiʻi State Senate. The three interim appointees will fill one Honolulu County seat, one Maui County seat, and one Hawaiʻi County seat.

Born and raised in Hilo, Nahale-a is a 1986 graduate of Kamehameha Schools and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the CEO of the Global Resiliency Hub at ʻIole in Kohala, Hawaiʻi. ʻIole honors the 2,408-acre historic ahupuaʻa being managed by Global Resiliency where it is modeling how regenerative governance can create a world that is not only sustainable, but regenerative, leading to abundance for people and the environment.

Nahale-a has spent more than 30 years serving the community in various roles including director and chair of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and various roles at Kamehameha Schools, including senior director of Community Engagement and Resources for Hawaiʻi Island.

Queen Liliʻuokalani’s Personal Flag Returns

Queen Liliuokalani’s royal standard was on public display at Washington Place for the first time since it was seized in 1893. A procession was held, followed by a blessing and remarks welcoming the Queen’s standard back to Washington Place on July 24.

Gov. Josh Green and his wife Jaime Kanani Green, the first Native Hawaiian first lady, formally received the flag alongside descendants of the queen and the Dominis family.

The flag, which was slated to be auctioned off at Bonham’s Auction House in New York, was returned after the Attorney General’s office submitted a letter of claim for the standard. The return of the royal standard, considered the symbol of the kingdom, is representative of ongoing efforts to bring back and preserve artifacts belonging to Hawaiʻi.

The estate of Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawananakoa, and Damon Estate heiress Brendan Damon Ethington, each donated $30,000 to the listed owners of the standard.

Design Firm Creates Sea Level Rise Awareness Videos

Three public service announcement videos intended to bring awareness to harmful effects of sea level rise, revised setback regulations, and preserving Oʻahu’s shoreline have been created by Oʻahu-based Stacey Leong Design.

The videos feature Robert Cazimero, Paula Fuga and renowned Hawaiian musician and cultural practitioner Kuʻu-ipo Kumukahi.

The City and County of Honolulu has actively worked to preserve Oʻahu’s sandy beaches and shorelines by combatting rapid erosion and permanent beach loss. Since the 1960s, the City and County has passed and enforced laws that restrict coastal development, including the construction of human-placed barriers, and requiring structures to be set back from the shoreline.

Ocean levels in Hawaiʻi are estimated to rise more than 3 feet within the next several decades, and the devastating impacts from high tides will be felt years earlier.

The videos encourage coastal property owners who plan to renovate or build to not add shoreline barriers and to build at the farthest ma uka end of their property, and to follow all permitting requirements.

The State of Hawaiʻi has estimated that as the ocean rises, annual flooding will impact over 13,000 residents and nearly 4,000 structures.

Homebuyer Program Awarded $900,000

Hawaiian Community Assets (HCA) announced in July that it had been awarded $903,168 by American Savings Bank (ASB) and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines (FHLB Des Moines) to expand housing counseling and financial education support for its Kahua Waiwai Homebuyer Program.

“We are immensely grateful to American Savings Bank for their generous support through The FHLB Des Moines Member Impact Fund,” said Chelsie Evans Enos, executive director of Hawaiian Community Assets. “Their commitment to our mission of housing readiness and financial education will enable us to reach more individuals and families in need. This funding will empower us to expand our programs for more rent to own options, increase those reached through personalized housing ready counselors, and equip Hawaiʻi’s people with the knowledge and resources necessary to achieve stable and sustainable housing.”

The FHLB Des Moines Member Impact Fund, which provided a nearly $3-to-$1 matching award, turned ASB’s commitment of $250,000 and FHLB Des Moines’ matching grant of $653,168 into a total of $903,168 for HCA.

The HCA Kahua Waiwai Homebuyer Program offers free homeownership resources to assist low- and moderate- income individuals and families in Hawaiʻi, contributing to the overall wellbeing and stability of the community. As a nonprofit organization and HUD-certified housing counseling agency, HCA is committed to helping local families build generational wealth, establishing economic empowerment and financial stability.

Agribusiness Training Program Seeking Applicants

ChangeMakers Hawaiʻi is inviting individuals and organizations interested in starting agribusinesses to participate in a culturally driven, science-focused training in sustainable agriculture, irrigation and fertilization, greenhouse construction, hydroponics systems, advanced agri-technology and workforce readiness.

Training is offered onsite and virtually. Requirements include a smart device and internet access. For individuals with limited internet access, the ChangeMakers Hawaiʻi co-working space, The Change Center Collective Workspace, in Hilo is available.

This training is part of ChangeMakers Hawaiʻiʻs ʻĀinapreneur Business and Workforce Development Program, which promotes economic development and job creation that values people, community, environment and Hawaiian language, culture and values. In addition to small business start-up and workforce training, ʻĀinapreneur has a revolving loan program and back-office support services.

Hands-on hōʻike (performance-based assessments) are part of the program, and participants are eligible to earn micro-credential digital badges and other agriculture and food industry-recognized credentials. Qualified graduates will also get assistance with internships and career-entry opportunities.

To enroll in this free program, please email For more information, please visit

Gov. Green Vetoes Bills That Would Protect Freshwater Supplies

Gov. Josh Green has vetoed two bills aimed to deter and respond to drinking water crises, like the one triggered by leaks from the Red Hill fuel tanks. Water advocates questioned who is advising the Green administration, and the unintended consequences of his vetoes.

HB1088 would have enabled the Water Commission to better ensure public needs and safety are prioritized during a water crisis. The veto justification was that emergency authority already exists.

“This bill would give the Water Commission the tools it says it needs to take timely action in an emergency, to prevent frivolous uses of our precious freshwater supplies that should be prioritized for our homes, schools, hospitals – our most vital needs,” said Wayne Tanaka, executive director of the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi.

HB153 was intended to authorize the Water Commission to impose increased fines against entities that could otherwise over pump aquifers or drain streams dry. The bill would have allowed the commission to use its enforcement process to charge violators up to $60,000 per day, an increase from the current maximum penalty of $5,000 per day.

The administration justified the veto on concerns that housing developments might be discouraged by such fines, and that county entities would apply these fines immediately.

Cabinet Member Engages With Native Hawaiian Community During Visit

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland recently spent a week in Hawaiʻi, where she highlighted how President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and “Bidenomics” strategy are helping to protect iconic Hawaiian bird species, strengthen the Native Hawaiian community, and invest in the science and infrastructure that support public lands and waters.

Throughout the visit, Secretary Haaland, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz, and Senior Advisor for Native Hawaiian Affairs Summer Sylva met with federal, state and local leaders, members of the Native Hawaiian community at various sites and public lands throughout the Hawaiian Islands. They also visited sites that help tell an inclusive and complicated story of America’s history, including Pearl Harbor National Memorial and ʻIolani Palace, which recently received nearly $500,000 for restoration through a Save America’s Treasures Grant from the National Park Service.

Haaland highlighted the department’s commitment to work with Indigenous communities to protect lands and waters, revitalize Indigenous languages, and acknowledge and address the enduring legacy of assimilationist policies.

As part of the department’s work to hear directly from survivors and their descendants through the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, Haaland met with survivors and descendants to learn how federal assimilation policies impacted the Native Hawaiian community. During the meeting, she heard how the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and subsequent prohibitions on the use of ʻōlelo Hawai’i throughout the 20th century left intergenerational impacts that persist.

Kamehameha Graduate Honored for Heroic Act

Photo: Kealiʻi Akahane
Bellevue, Wash., police officer Kealiʻi Akahane, a 1987 Kamehameha Schools Kapālama graduate and former Honolulu police officer, was awarded the Medal of Valor for rescuing a young man who had jumped into Phantom Lake with 50 pounds of weights in his backpack.

Akahane is only the third recipient in the department’s history to receive the Medal of Valor.

In full police uniform including boots and a ballistic vest, Akahane climbed over a wooden railing and jumped into the 50-degree water. He pulled the youth to the surface and brought him to the pier where officers on the pier pulled him from the water and performed CPR.

For his efforts, Akahane was also one of 16 individuals to receive the Carnegie Medal, North America’s highest honor for heroism. The Carnegie Medal is given throughout the U.S. and Canada to those who enter extreme danger while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.

Akahane and the other recipients – or their survivors – also received a financial grant.

OHA Trustees Visit Molokaʻi

At its recent Molokaʻi community and board meetings, OHA’s Board of Trustees paid a visit to the Molokaʻi Community Health Center. With too few doctors and a lack of specialized medical equipment, access to quality medical care for island residents has become increasingly difficult. Residents must travel to Oʻahu or Maui for specialized medical care. The visit provided an opportunity to talk story with the folks who are trying to meet the health care needs of island residents. Pictured (l-r): Trustees Keoni Souza, Hulu Lindsey and Brickwood Galuteria, Project Director Terry Radi, Trustee Luana Alapa, Interim CEO Shanna Willing, Trustees Kalei Akaka (with her baby Ana) and Dan Ahuna. – Photo: Lehua Itokazu