Ceded Lands Settlement Proposal Includes Kaka‘ako Parcel
By Wendy Osher
The state is in discussions with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs over a proposed $200 million ceded lands settlement.
If approved, the agreement would finally and completely resolve any and all claims relating to OHA’s share of ceded land receipts from November 7, 1978 to July 1, 2012.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, the state would convey land in Kaka‘ako to OHA as payment to cover past due amounts owed to the organization from ceded land payments.
“Although we realize there is more work ahead of us, we are extremely excited and encouraged about the potential of this news to help OHA continue its mission, and to continue to support education, job training and social service programs,” said OHA Chairperson Colette Machado. “It also represents a major milestone and the most critical stage in the process to provide hope for a brighter future for native Hawaiians and all of Hawai‘i Nei.”
The parcels included in the proposed settlement are near Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park, including Fisherman’s Wharf.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the lands are and will remain under the jurisdiction of the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), and will continue to be subject to HCDA’s zoning and other land use conditions. The lands would be conveyed as is.
“My administration has been working with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for months to reach an agreement that is pono, that benefits native Hawaiians, and that is the right thing for the state,” said Governor Neil Abercrombie.
“While we are pleased that the state and OHA have reached this agreement in principle, there is still a long way to go. We are optimistic that we’ll get there,” he said.
The agreement is also subject to state legislative approval; and OHA has the ability to walk away from the proposal prior to a decision by the legislature.
Between now and the end of the year, OHA will hold a series of meetings with community members on each island across the state to discuss the proposal and its implications for the native Hawaiian community. A schedule of meetings will be released once it is finalized.
“We will be doing our due diligence on this proposal to make sure it makes sense for OHA and the native Hawaiian people,” said Clyde W. Nämu‘o, OHA chief executive officer. “Our first obligation is to make sure there are no legal or other barriers to using the land in the best interests of native Hawaiians,” he said.
Also under the proposal, the state would not be giving up any mineral, surface or ground water rights to the land. The state would also have access rights and easements as reasonably necessary for the benefit and use of its adjoining properties.
In exchange for the land, OHA would release, waive and discharge any and all claims that it, and any other person or entity, might make to ceded lands receipts for the period from 1978 to July 1, 2012.
Nämu‘o said OHA’s vision is to create a master plan to utilize the land in consultation with key stakeholders, such as Kamehameha Schools, the Hawaii Community Development Authority, the University of Hawaii, as well as members of the community. He noted that revenue derived from the land would be used to support OHA and native Hawaiians into the future.
“We look forward to working with the members of the legislature as they deliberate the possible conveyance of these valuable and historic properties,” said Nämu‘o.
The State Constitution provides that certain lands ceded by the United States to the State of Hawaii as part of the Admission Act, are held by the state as a public trust for native Hawaiians and the general public. These are known as the ceded lands.
Under the State Constitution, a portion of the income and proceeds derived from the ceded lands are to be used by OHA to better the conditions of native Hawaiians.
Since 1978, OHA has made certain claims for payments for ceded lands income and proceeds, and has filed several lawsuits to assert those claims. All lawsuits were dismissed on grounds that it is up to the legislature to determine what constitutes the appropriate portion of the income and proceeds derived from ceded lands that are to be given to OHA to administer.
In 2008, a settlement agreement was reached between the Lingle administration and OHA, but the item failed to pass in the state legislature.
*** Supporting information courtesy State of Hawaii, office of the governor; and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.