Purchase of burial site moving ahead

The Kaua‘i Public Land Trust has joined Malama Kaua‘i’s effort to purchase the Hawaiian burial ground at Naue point in Ha‘ena, according to a weekend press release.

The KPLT, which already has acquired four Kaua‘i parcels appraised at $8.3 million and totaling 28 acres, agreed at its Sept. 25 meeting to take on the Naue project, said Keone Kealoha, executive director of Malama Kaua‘i.

“With our two organizations working together, we feel confident that this endeavor will meet with success,” Kealoha said in the release. “KPLT brings a strong track record and high degree of experience to this initiative.”

Donors can take advantage of the tax deduction associated with making donations to either of the two nonprofit organizations.

Malama Kaua‘i launched the acquisition drive on Sept. 15 with a $75,000 pledge from an anonymous donor. The objective is to raise enough funds to purchase a 15,000-square-foot oceanfront lot where 31 burials were discovered during preparations to build a single-family home.

Pledges promised to date total over $85,000 and that total continues to grow daily.

“I’m confident that the people of Hawai‘i will come together to do the right thing,” Kealoha said. “It will take all of us pooling our resources, large and small, for this effort to be successful.”

The land is now owned by Joseph Brescia, who is proceeding with plans to build a house atop the burials. No purchase price has been identified, but Brescia previously stated he has invested more than $1 million in the project. KPLT will meet with Brescia to solidify a purchase price, Kealoha said.

Meanwhile, construction continues and seven burials that will remain directly under the house have been capped in concrete.

However, the future of the project remains in question. In a recent court ruling, Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe found that the State Historic Preservation Division failed to consult with the Kaua‘i-Ni‘ihau Island Burial Council, descendants of the burials and Hawaiian community groups before approving the final burial treatment plan for the project.

The issue will go back to the Burial Council at its Thursday meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. in the Council Chambers in Lihu‘e. The Burial Council could take a number of actions, such as having the concrete caps removed from the iwi, ordering visitation access to the burials and having the burials under the house removed and reinterred elsewhere.

Kealoha said that Malama Kaua‘i has applied to the SHPD to gain standing as an “appropriate Hawaiian organization” that must be consulted on the new burial treatment plan. He urged other groups, especially those located on Kaua‘i and involved in protecting Hawaiian cultural practices, including burials, to also apply for consulting status.

Written requests for such status must be submitted prior to the Burial Council meeting by e-mailing SHPD Kaua‘i district archaeologist Nancy McMahon at nancy.a.mcmahon@hawaii.gov

Kealoha also encouraged all persons of Hawaiian descent who believe they may be descendants of the burials to apply for access rights. A form can be obtained from McMahon or downloaded at http://hawaii.gov/dlnr/hpd

To download a copy of the land acquisition pledge form and learn more, visit http://www.MalamaKauai.org or call 828-0685.

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