This July, the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act will turn 100 years old. The State of Hawaii’s constitutional responsibility of returning native Hawaiians to the land has been underfunded since it was accepted as a condition of statehood, so much so that there have been numerous attempts to resolve DHHL’s budget shortfalls, including lawsuits by beneficiaries.
As a bold response to sedate funding, the Department drafted a legislative proposal to allow limited casino gaming in the form of a single integrated resort property on Hawaiian Home Lands.
Following the 2015 Jeannette Castagnetti decision in the Nelson case, the Department has submitted a sufficient sums budget to the legislature which represents what DHHL can spend in a fiscal year toward homestead development. Since the decision, the proposed budgets were over $240 million per year. Governor David Ige’s administration and the legislature have provided record-level funding to DHHL in these past five years, but these amounts are still far short of what is needed for infrastructure development to ensure that native Hawaiian beneficiaries can not only be offered a lot for homesteading but have the necessary infrastructure to do so with success.
This limited gaming proposal aims to create a consistent funding source for DHHL to build roads, sewage systems, and water sources that will ultimately develop raw land into suitable home, farm, and ranching lots.
The time is now to have a meaningful conversation about the necessary resources that are needed to chart a more successful path for the next 100 years of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.
Cedric R. Duarte is the Information & Community Relations Officer for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. He has worked in communications and marketing since 1999 and is a longtime event organizer. A product of the Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, he resides in ʻAiea with his wife and two daughters.