Statement: OHA Chair Calls HB499 “Damaging Law to Native Hawaiian Rights”
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chair, Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey issued a statement today on House Bill 499, relating to lease extensions on public land.
The measure would authorize the Board of Land and Natural Resources to extend certain leases of public lands for commercial, industrial, resort, mixed-use or government use upon approval of a proposed development agreement to make substantial improvements to the existing improvements.
Chair Lindsey said she is “extremely disappointed” by the Governor’s decision not to consider the item for veto. His intent to veto list was released earlier this week and included 28 other bills. Any measures passed by the Hawai‘i State Legislature this session that are not on the governor’s final list will become law with or without his signature.
“This decision by the Governor ensures that this controversial bill, which OHA and many other organizations and individuals repeatedly raised concerns about in opposition during and after the 2021 legislative session, will inevitably now become law. HB499 will represent the most damaging law to Native Hawaiian rights enacted in nearly a decade,” said Chair Lindsey.
In a her statement, Chair Lindsey said, “Forty-year lease extensions, directly negotiated between current lessees and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, threaten to prevent future generations of Native Hawaiians from ensuring the best uses of our public trust lands. Moreover, such extension authority also ignores and perpetuates the historical injustices inflicted upon the Native Hawaiian people, who continue to struggle with the intergenerational traumas that resulted from the theft of their lands and the disruption of their sovereignty, by allowing the current and future state administrations to foreclose any opportunity for Native Hawaiians to assert their claims to their stolen, ancestral lands for four decades at a time.”
Chair Lindsey said she is calling upon the governor to issue a moratorium on the extension of any leases under HB499, “unless and until the adoption of administrative rules that can ensure transparency and accountability in the negotiation and issuance of lease extensions, and that sufficiently recognize and protect the unresolved claims of Native Hawaiians to the stolen, “ceded” lands that may be encumbered under this measure.”
She said she will also work with fellow trustees and the community to pursue a repeal of HB499 next legislative session.
“In the meantime, we will remain steadfast in our commitment to this ʻāina and the Lāhui, and we look forward to continuing to work with our community to help facilitate and further the state’s constitutional duties and moral and legal obligations to Native Hawaiians and the public trust,” she said.
Among those who testified in support of the bill were the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Chair Suzanne Case issued written testimony in April saying the bill “acknowledges the commitment of long-term lessees to locating their business on state lease lands and to ensure that such lessees could continue to operate those businesses for the duration of the extension period authorized under the measure. The Department believes that retaining long-term lessees in good standing is in the best interests of the State and therefore supports the bill.”