E Hoʻoulu i ka Lāhui

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Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, Trustee, Maui

One of the great goals of King Kalākaua was to Hoʻoulu Lāhui, or to increase the Hawaiians and the Nation.

After working for two and a half months on SB 1334, OHA’s Kakaʻako Makai bill, I had an epiphany upon recalling the words of our last Mōʻī Kāne, King David Laʻamea Kalākaua, to “Hoʻoulu Lāhui” which literally means “to increase the Nation.”

His words called upon Hawaiians to seek greater involvement in their government in response to changing political winds which sought to diminish Hawaiians’ power to control their political and economic destinies.

Kalākaua’s words ring true for me today as I reflect upon how we all must now engage with our state legislature to do what is best for all of Hawaiʻi, especially as it relates to OHA’s plans to steward and develop its Kakaʻako lands, and to thereby be able to better steward and care for its Native Hawaiian beneficiaries.

State legislators were told of our vision, our hopes, and our dreams for Kakaʻako Makai to create a Hawaiian cultural gathering spot, a Hawaiian sense of place, a place where Hawaiʻi’s people could work, live, and play in an area accessible to jobs, commerce, shopping, mass transit, parks, and the ocean.

Those conversations were invigorating and exciting, in part because of the assumptions by some that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was just another developer with no stake and no connection to the land, the ocean, and the people, and that we were out to make as much money as possible with little concern for the ʻāina, our lāhui, or the people of Hawaiʻi.

As the Indigenous and Native people of Hawaiʻi, nothing could be further from the truth.

On Tuesday, March 9, the Senate passed SB1334 SD1, allowing for residential housing on some of OHA’s Kakaʻako parcels, and raising the allowable height for two of OHA’s lots on busy Ala Moana Boulevard from 200 to 400 feet.

Senators overwhelmingly understood that it made sense to allow for the development of residential housing away from the shoreline and in the business corridor, and that such a development would be in the best interest of not only OHA’s Native Hawaiian beneficiaries, but for all of Hawaiʻi as a means to address Hawaiʻi’s perennial housing shortage.

On March 15, OHA learned that the House will not be scheduling hearings on our bill meaning that unless something drastic happens, OHA’s Kakaʻako bill will not pass this year.

The OHA trustees’ obligation to their Native Hawaiian beneficiaries is to protect their rights and to challenge laws which unconstitutionally prevent them from developing their makai properties as private developers mauka of Ala Moana are now allowed to do.

One strategy is to legally challenge HRS 206E-31.5(2) as “special legislation” which preserves view planes for residential towers mauka of Ala Moana Boulevard by prohibiting Hawaiians from building housing on any of its 30 plus acres of its Kakaʻako makai lands. Another strategy is to pass SB1334 SD1.

This isn’t about OHA but is instead about “special interest” politics. OHA is entitled to parity with the same zoning allowances that other mauka developers have already received.

HRS 206E-31.5(2) discriminates against Hawaiians and favors special interests over the public interest. It must either be overturned by a court or repealed by passage of SB1334 SD1.

I call upon Hawaiians to hoʻoulu lāhui, to increase your knowledge and understanding of how Hawaiians’ rights to self-determination in the use of their trust lands will benefit Hawaiians in perpetuity.

Mahalo a nui loa!