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Church project hit with second suit


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POSTED: Friday, August 28, 2009

A second lawsuit has been filed against Kawaiaha'o Church and the state to block the disinterment or relocation of iwi—native Hawaiian remains—at the construction site of its multipurpose center.

The Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. filed suit in Circuit Court on behalf of plaintiff Dana Naone Hall of Maui earlier this month.

Naone Hall, who has family members who attended the church and are buried on the grounds, says in the suit that the church should have completed an archaeological inventory survey and gone before the Oahu Island Burial Council before starting work on the center.

The suit further alleges that the church, as well as the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, ignored a 2005 archaeological report recommending that a survey be done. Instead, the church and state worked together to expedite the project and circumvent the purview of the burial council.

The suit also says the church discovered 24 burials at an on-site construction staging area—prior to the discovery of 69 others, as reported to the state—and should have informed the burial council but did not.

Naone Hall's suit follows in the steps of another one filed in July by Abigail Kawananakoa, who is also seeking to stop the church from any further work at the burial plot of her ancestors, Queen Kapiolani and King Kalakaua.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources said it could not comment on pending litigation.

“;We are disappointed in the allegations against Kawaiaha'o Church made by Ms. Hall,”; said the church in a written statement. “;However, we look forward to resolving this matter and resuming work on the new facility, which will allow the church to carry out its mission and better serve the congregation and the community.”;

The church is waiting for a disinterment permit from the state Department of Health so it can continue construction.

The law was changed in 1990, she said, to put a process in place to protect native Hawaiian burials. This process requires any burials classified as “;previously identified,”; which she says should be the case for these iwi, to fall under the jurisdiction of the burial council.

Given that construction has not yet started on new sewer, water and electrical lines, Naone Hall says the church has enough time to complete an archaeological inventory survey and have the burial council consider the matter.