For people of faith, Advent is a season of great expectation. I am indeed a person of faith and I, like so many, await the celebration of the birth of the Christ child with hope and anticipation.
This period of waiting is also filled with hope on another front. I have been attending our Hakuone Town Hall meetings recently. I am so grateful for the many who made the time to listen to our plans and respond with grace and wisdom. I have listened carefully about what they expect from OHA relative to the development of our lands in Kakaʻako Makai; we now call those lands Hakuone, an evocative name proposed by Kumu Cy Bridges.
Hakuone is grounded in our history and our vision for the future. I heard meeting participants ask why Hawaiians are kept from building residential properties when across the street from us developers from the continent build high rises that only the rich can afford. I heard participants express warm support for our plans to create a neighborhood that harkens back to our sense of community: where ALL are welcome.
I heard the pain of remembering what we lost when Hawaiians were pushed to the margins of a place where they had once lived and raised their families. Some recalled their parents having been born and raised there, while they cannot raise their families there today.
That must change. Justice for Hawaiians is long overdue.
I heard the call repeatedly for OHA to demand what is rightfully ours – our legal share of ceded land revenues – and the freedom to explore the full range of development options that will allow keiki and kūpuna to once again live, work and play in a truly Hawaiian setting. For that to happen, we must insist that discriminatory restrictions on what Hawaiians can do on Hawaiian lands be lifted.
Hakuone is not something we are developing for tourists. Hakuone is the expression of our kuleana to deliver for our beneficiaries. As one Town Hall participant said, “the list of what Hawaiians need is long.” Our ability to respond to those needs depends on having the freedom to get optimum value from our Hakuone lands. We intend to do that without forgetting our mission.
This should not be a surprise to lawmakers. Committee reports from 2012 document their understanding and expectation that changes needed to be made to the law to allow Hawaiians to realize the true value of the lands that had been given to OHA in the supposed settlement of the state’s debt.
Those reports tell us that, at the time the bill that led to Act 15 was being birthed, lawmakers acknowledged (in the report from the Committees for Hawaiian Affairs and Water, Land and Housing) that “property values could be enhanced by certain entitlements that, while not specifically provided for in this measure, could be obtained at a future date.” The Committee on Judiciary and Labor also noted their conviction that “this measure does not represent a final settlement of all of the longstanding ceded land claims, nor does it encompass all ceded land parcels within the lands identified as the Kakaʻako Makai area.”
It’s time for the state to make good on what it acknowledged a decade ago. No more delays.
That will be OHA’s message to lawmakers when we meet with them this year.
I wish you and your families all the blessings of the season. May 2023 be a better year for all.
I promise you this: OHA will do all it can to make it so.