Ka Wai Ola

Photo: Brendon Kalei'aina Lee

The holidays are upon us and it is time to reflect on the past year. As I look back on my first year in office, I am happy to report that much has been done with your Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The first large project your Trustees took on was to look at the governance of OHA. A Permitted Interaction Group was formed to investigate OHA governance and make proposals to the Board of Trustees. A new governance framework was drafted, proposed to the Board, and unanimously passed. It began with a new set of policies called Lāhui Level Policies. This is the lens through which all that is done at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs will be looked at. We are still in the process of amending our by-laws and will be going through all our policies in the new year.

We completed the community engagement process for our Strategic Plan 2020. Our new plan will take us through 2035 and allow the Trustees to reevaluate and course-correct every three years, if necessary. With the new governance policies, the strategic plan will have much clearer lanes to holo mua down and allow our administration to have a clearer understanding of their kuleana.

Along these lines, we have passed several new policies that will allow administration to grow our Native Hawaiian Trust to the billion-dollar level and allow OHA to better help our beneficiaries. Our new investment policy will have qualified professionals make investment decisions for the trust. A debt policy will allow us to better leverage our assets and to grow our assets. The Trustees mahalo our makua trusts, Lunalilo, Kamehameha, and Liliʻuokalani for their guidance in developing these policies.

These projects were in line with findings from the State Audit 2018. Along with these works, our administration has been able to better streamline our granting and loan processes.

All these endeavors began under the guidance of Ka Pouhana Kamanaʻo Crabbe and were carried forward by Ka Pouhana Kūikawā Sylvia Hussey. We bade Kamanaʻo a fond farewell as he pursued new challenges and ways to uplift our lāhui. After a thorough search, OHA was excited to welcome Sylvia Hussey as our new Ka Pouhana and to allow her to complete the work she had helped to frame under Kamanaʻo.

Sylvia was able to see the CLA audit of contact and disbursement to completion. Those findings will be presented to the BOT in the coming days. Now that the audit is behind us, we can focus on the future and I hope you will agree, with all that OHA has accomplished this year, that future looks bright.

Another milestone for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was a landmark ruling in the lawsuit against the University of Hawaiʻi for their mismanagement of Maunakea. We will continue the fight for our resources to be properly managed and to hold the State accountable for their fiduciary responsibility enshrined within our State Constitution.

In the new year, we look forward to sharing where we are with Kakaʻako Makai, Iwilei, and other exciting projects that will help to grow the Native Hawaiian Trust. There are some who believe this is necessary so that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is not reliant on funding from the State Legislature. I disagree with this statement. We need to grow the Trust so we can better help Native Hawaiians. We are not reliant on the State Legislature, rather, they have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to provide funds from OUR lands.

Happy Holidays to you and your ʻohana. I look forward to seeing you all in 2020.