Since the closing of the 2021 state legislative session and the approval by the governor of OHA’s budget bill for the 2021-23 biennium, I am writing to express my aloha and gratitude to both the legislature and the Governor.
I realize the importance of these funds because they enable us to serve our Native Hawaiian beneficiaries. I do, however, believe that OHA must heed the wisdom of our kūpuna who knew the importance of “knowing how to fish rather than being given a fish,” and that OHA should strive to exercise our right to economic self-determination by taking steps to advocate for what is due and owing to Native Hawaiians while simultaneously building our collective self-sufficiency by fully developing our assets.
OHA exists to better the conditions of our Hawaiian beneficiaries, and therefore we must constantly cull and review our strategic priorities to help us accomplish our mission. The wellbeing of our people is, and should always remain, our constant FOCUS.
In order for OHA to mālama its Hawaiian beneficiaries, OHA must pursue its legal right to receive its full 20% share of the revenues the state derives from the ceded lands as defined in the Hawaiʻi State Constitution. We must lift the “temporary” holdover agreement of $15.1 million (estimated now to be less than 50% of the annual amount due to OHA on behalf of Native Hawaiians) created under Linda Lingle’s administration and instead adopt a reporting and payment schedule of ceded land revenue payments to OHA which are consistent with both the spirit and letter of the law.
To pursue economic self-sufficiency for our beneficiaries, OHA needs to pursue the highest and best use of its Kakaʻako Makai lands as an “economic engine” that will fund the programs and services that our Hawaiian beneficiaries will require. As responsible stewards of our oceanfront Kakaʻako lands, OHA has the opportunity to create a mixed-use development in the urban center of Honolulu that will benefit both Hawaiians and the people of Hawaiʻi.
Once developed to its full potential, Kakaʻako Makai will generate additional income which will be used to fund OHA’s “bread and butter” programs for our beneficiaries. I will work with the OHA Board to establish a clear nexus between the income derived from the development of our Kakaʻako Makai lands and the funding and creation of programs for our beneficiaries.
In order for OHA and Hawaiians to move forward, we need our community to support OHA’s efforts to pursue the highest and best use of our Kakaʻako lands. We will also require support for the same residential zoning and height limits now available to private developers planning and developing in the Ala Moana corridor, as well as private developers located directly across Ala Moana Boulevard in Kakaʻako Mauka.
To make this happen, OHA will create what is tantamount to a modern-day Kūʻē petition to educate the community across the state about what is at stake and the blatant unfairness of the limits now being imposed on OHA while other developers literally across the street are able to plan and develop 400-foot residential towers. We must never forget that we are the Kānaka Maoli, the “host culture” of these lands, that we are one of two named beneficiaries set forth in the Admissions Act ( i.e., Native Hawaiians and the general public), that OHA exists to serve the needs of its beneficiaries, and that OHA has an inherent right to pursue economic self-determination to better the conditions of its beneficiaries.