State and OHA make land deal
The state has agreed to resolve a 30-year-old dispute with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs over so-called ceded lands by turning over $200 million in cash and land.
State land along Kewalo Basin and at Kalaeloa on Oahu and on Banyan Drive on the Big Island will be given to OHA, according to the agreement that state officials are calling historic. The land is valued at about $187 million.
The dispute traces its roots to 1978 when Hawaii voters approved changes to the state Constitution that created OHA, calling for the state to give OHA revenues from ceded lands -- land controlled by the state of Hawaii that was originally under the control of the kingdom of Hawaii.
The agreement must be approved by the Legislature.
Officials at a news conference in Gov. Linda Lingle's executive office at the state Capitol said yesterday that three state administrations, those of Govs. Waihee, Cayetano and Lingle, have tried to put together a deal to pay OHA for the lands.
"The payments to OHA resulted in being a football that was kicked from the Legislature to the courts back to the Legislature with little to limited success," Haunani Apoliona, OHA chairwoman, said yesterday.
The new agreement gives OHA $13 million now and guarantees an annual state payment of $15 million.
Also, OHA is given title of some closely watched waterfront property, the Ewa portion of Kewalo Basin that was controversial two years ago when a state-sponsored plan would have put up condominiums on the property in return for putting other parcels into park use.
Now the Hawaii Community Development Authority has formed a community group to reach consensus on how to develop the area. The parcel would still be under the jurisdiction of HCDA. Lingle said yesterday the agreement proposes that an additional person be added to the HCDA board and that the person be nominated by OHA.
The entire agreement must now be approved by the Legislature, and it is expected to be controversial.
Big Island Sen. Lorraine Inouye, whose Hilo district abuts the 80 acres of resort-zoned land at Banyan Drive that would go to OHA, predicted some discussion.
"I think resolving the issue is long overdue, but some may not be happy with it," Inouye (D, Hilo-Hamakua) said.
Apoliona called the agreement "momentous."
"Some native Hawaiians will think it is not enough, but there are those in the native Hawaiian community saying, 'Yeah, great move,'" Apoliona said.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said the Legislature will have to hold hearings to find out what the Hawaiian beneficiaries think.
"I feel we are going to be the receivers of a lot of frustrations and anxiety," Hanabusa said.
Jonathan Scheuer, OHA land management director, said the state controls more than 10,000 individual parcels of land worth more than a billion dollars. OHA and the state reviewed the various parcels and agreed on the three areas.
"We want to ensure that the land is developed in a culturally sound way that can produce outstanding revenues that can be put into beneficiary programs," Scheuer said.
The Hilo property, Scheuer said, represents 80 percent of the resort property in East Hawaii. While there are existing leases with hotel owners now, OHA wants to look at the entire package for future development.