What is OHA asking of the legislature this session? Very simply, we are asking for justice for Native Hawaiians. We are asking that lawmakers live up to their own understanding of Act 15, passed a decade ago. Yes, it’s been a decade. And we all know that justice delayed is justice denied.
No fewer than four committees in 2012 recorded their understanding that the prohibition on residential development would have to be lifted in order for the lands in Kakaʻako Makai to realize the estimated value of $200 million.
The state recognized at the time that OHA could only realize that estimated value if they were free to develop the lands to meet the needs and aspirations of the Hawaiian people. The state hoped to discharge its debt to OHA through this “deal.” Yet here we are in 2023, having to remind lawmakers what their own committees – Hawaiian Affairs; Water, Land and Housing; Ways and Means; and Judiciary and Labor – promised in 2012. Years have passed without those promises being kept.
We will remind them of that. Our people are tired of having to repeatedly ask and wait for what is provided for by law. We hear the frustration and the anger.
Here are some highlights of what we will be demanding from lawmakers:
- The freedom to pursue residential development on our parcels of land at Kakaʻako Makai, collectively called Hakuone.
- The right to build a variety of housing options (without the current height restrictions) on three parcels closest to Ala Moana Boulevard. We will point to the obvious: that other developers from outside Hawaiʻi have built, and are still building, numerous high rises, some above 400 feet, just across the street from our parcels. There is no justification for why they can, but we cannot. Access to housing is a state priority. Lawmakers have repeatedly asserted their commitment to making housing accessible to people at all income levels. OHA will contribute to exactly that goal. We cannot see how lawmakers can justify saying NO to that. Our people will also welcome having their own authentic cultural center and opportunities for small businesses.
- Funds from the state – an estimated $65 million – to cover repairs to the bulkheads and revetments in the nine parcels. We discovered the state of disrepair while doing our due diligence. This was a failure of maintenance on the part of the state. It would be unreasonable to expect OHA to foot the bill for the state’s neglect.
- Arrears for the shortfall in what was paid to OHA as its pro-rata share of ceded land revenues. If we had received $200 million in cash in 2012 instead of being given land, and had invested it, at a conservative 7% rate of return OHA would now have $400 million. We ordinary taxpayers pay a penalty when we miss a payment or pay less than we owe. It is not a good look for the state to fail to live up to its commitment over a decade. There is resolve on the part of many legislators to restore public confidence. We hope to tap into that resolve to make our legislative push in 2023 successful.
You can help by talking to your ʻohana, your neighbors, colleagues and friends. Counter misinformation with facts. When the time comes for testimony, we hope you will express what I have heard you state so eloquently in our community meetings. Together we can haku (braid) the ‘one’ (sands of our birth) and restore a Hawaiian imprint to a place where we once lived, worked and played. And will again.