Wednesday, March 3, 1999

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OHA, state hope
to reach ceded
lands accord

By Pat Omandam


The state and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs continue to hold out hope of reaching a settlement over past-due revenues from ceded lands, although it appears more likely the Hawaii Supreme Court will be forced to decide for them.

OHA Chairwoman Rowena Akana said negotiators for the semiautonomous agency have made six offers to the state to settle, but the state hasn't responded to any of them.

Akana yesterday briefed the board of trustees on the status of the negotiations before she met with Gov. Ben Cayetano to deliver yet another offer.

"If the negotiations break off, it won't be the Office of Hawaiian Affairs who leaves the table," Akana said.

Earlier yesterday, Cayetano said the ceded lands negotiations continue, but there remains one major difference: The state wants a settlement with OHA on all ceded lands once and for all, while OHA only wants to settle past-due revenues from certain parcels that a Circuit Court judge in 1996 ruled they were entitled to.

The state appealed the ruling by former Circuit Court Judge Daniel Heely and the case is now before the Hawaii justices, who could render a decision at any time after giving the parties almost a year to reach an out-of-court settlement.

"I don't think there's a stalemate yet," Cayetano said. "I think there's opening for further talks."

Akana said OHA wants a fair settlement that includes a combination of land, cash and services. She said OHA has asked for at least half the amount owed, as well as parcels of land statewide -- with tax map keys included to mark the sites.

The estimated amount owed ranges from about $300 million to $1.2 billion.

OHA staff attorney Kali Watson added some of the lands proposed are revenue-producing. He said the state has its own list of lands that could be applied toward a settlement but hasn't yet revealed them to OHA negotiators.

As a result, Watson said, there's no way to know if the state and OHA are in agreement on deciding what parcels of land, if any, would be part of a settlement. It is a situation that may require a mediator to get the parties to talk to each other more, he said.

Akana yesterday told the nine-member board behind closed doors how negotiations have gone, what items are under discussion and what proposals have been put forth.

Akana has called another special board meeting for tomorrow to get opinions from the other trustees on how to proceed. She hopes the board can discuss a state response to OHA's latest offer.

January '97 OHA Ceded Lands Ruling

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