Monday, August 20, 2001

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OHA negotiation
committee head
wants state to make
good on land revenues

Newly elected Chairwoman
Colette Machado plans to seek
money owed from land deals

By Pat Omandam

As the new head of entitlements and negotiations for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, it's the little things Colette Machado is after.

For one, Machado wants the state to ante up OHA's share of the money it made in a land deal so the federal government could build a new detention center near Honolulu Airport.

She also wants new state legislation that defines and ensures OHA receives its full 20 percent share of revenue from ceded lands.

And Machado would like the Hawaii Supreme Court to finally rule on how much the state should pay OHA for past-due revenues on certain parcels of ceded lands, as was called for in a 1996 Circuit Court case on appeal before Hawaii justices.

"The obvious strategy is to get as much as we can from the state, especially on what's due to us that is way overdue," Machado said.

On Thursday the OHA board unanimously named Machado as chairwoman of the agency's Ad Hoc Committee on Entitlements and Negotiations. Trustee John D. Waihee IV was named vice chairman.

The committee is expected to meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the first of a series of meetings. Five trustees -- a board quorum -- are on the panel, meaning all of its meetings must be open to the public. In the past, such panels had fewer trustees who could meet in private.

For starters, Machado said, the committee is expected to seek a $1.8 million payment from the state, which is 20 percent of the $9 million the state received from the federal government for the newly opened federal prison at 351 Elliott St. near the airport, Machado said.

The land under the prison is ceded land. The federal government paid the state for its $9 million condemnation of the land, but OHA has yet to see its share, said OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona. "They forgot to pay us," Apoliona said.

Ceded or public trust lands are crown and government lands held by the republic of Hawaii after the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian government. These lands were ceded to the United States when Hawaii was annexed in 1900.

The federal government, in turn, gave Hawaii ownership of most of the lands when it became a state in 1959. The state Constitution requires one-fifth, or 20 percent, of the revenue from these lands be used for the betterment of native Hawaiians.

Machado, who heads OHA's Legislative and Government Affairs Committee and is the new chairwoman of the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, said she wants the state Legislature to come up with a new law that defines for which lands the state must make annual payments to OHA.

Historically, OHA had received roughly $15 million a year in payments from various state agencies. In recent years, however, the payments have dropped to $7.5 million while the ceded-land dispute lingers.

There were legislative attempts in the late 1990s to define the revenue payments, but those faltered or were unproductive.

Machado also hopes the Hawaii Supreme Court will rule soon on the Circuit Court case known as the Heely decision.

In 1996, then-Judge Daniel Heely ruled OHA was entitled to a share of ceded-land revenue from Duty Free concession lease payments, Hilo Hospital's patient service revenues, Housing Finance and Development Corp. proceeds, Hawaii Housing Authority rental income, and interests on all these incomes. Estimates of revenue owed in the case are between $300 million and $1.2 billion.

Machado is hesitant about returning quickly to the bargaining table.

Overall, she said, the committee will begin with the 1993 settlement between OHA and the state and take it from there. In that agreement the state paid OHA $19 million and agreed to make annual revenue payments to the agency.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

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