The recent decision by the State of Hawaii’s Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Commission to deny the Anahola Renewable Energy Project (Green Energy, LLC and its plan to remove Albizia trees) proposal is wrong and irresponsible. It is a blatant disregard for my family and the 4,000 native Hawaiian beneficiary families currently on the Kauai wait lists, especially those waiting for agricultural and pastoral lots for over 30 years.
It tells us that we are “invisible” to the very political leaders that are supposed to be acting solely on our interests. It also demonstrates further the mismanagement of trust lands at DHHL as highlighted in the articles by Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter Rob Perez. And, it demonstrates the total failure of our commission under the failed leadership of Chair Jobie Masagatani, a controversial appointment by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. This is a failure to meet the primary trust obligation to our native Hawaiian beneficiaries and getting our native Hawaiian families off the wait lists and onto our lands with 99-year homestead lease awards (residential, agricultural or pastoral).
Justice delayed is justice denied
There are over 4,000 families on the DHHL Kauai wait lists (2,150 for agricultural, 298 for pastoral and 1,559 for residential). DHHL has only ever awarded 47 agricultural leases once in Anahola (and on Kauai) in 1984 and only ever awarded one pastoral lease at Puu Opae (Westside), also 30 years ago. It is a complete, tragic and horrendous failure as beneficiaries are dying as they wait. The thing that comes to my heart and mind is “justice delayed is justice denied.” This current decision further delays and denies the justice all can agree our native Hawaiian beneficiaries deserve now!
A promising win-win project lost
This win-win partnership with Green Energy could have cleared 356 acres in the first 5 years and returned them to DHHL for homesteading. With that, DHHL could have awarded 103 two-acre subsistence agricultural leases and 14 10-acre pastoral leases as called for by the community in the Anahola Regional Plan. And, the partnership could also have cleared and returned to DHHL an additional 819 acres in another 15 years. With this decision, the promise of hundreds of homestead lease awards in the near future is lost.
No more excuses, avoid more lawsuits
For years, our political leaders at DHHL have been telling beneficiaries the same excuse of why they can’t award homestead leases: the lack of funds for necessary land preparation and infrastructure. Yet, here, when they had the opportunity to leverage our lands temporarily with a public-private partnership that brought with it $6.2 million in land clearing and other infrastructure improvements, they passed on it. This is fiscally irresponsible and a failure of our HHC to meet its fiduciary responsibility — a responsibility that is not only to minimize the risk and negative exposure to our trust but to also maximize the positive acquisition of resources and ability to serve the beneficiaries of our trust. The beneficiaries have already won the Nelson lawsuit that requires DHHL to advocate for and demand sufficient funding for operations during the state’s budgeting process. Will it take more beneficiary lawsuits for DHHL to meet its fiduciary responsibility to the native Hawaiian beneficiaries on the wait list? We hope not but fear it will!
Give us a chance, we can do it ourselves
The chair and at least three other commissioners chose to ignore our 4,000 wait list beneficiary families and instead listen to those who brought forward testimony of anger, fear and frustration. And, it’s understandable as the spirit of their testimony focused primarily on either, “Keep Hawaiian lands in Hawaiian hands,” or “Give us a chance, we can do it ourselves!”
Everyone agrees! So, now, let’s strongly encourage the folks who mobilized the defeat of this partnership to stay engaged and help move us beyond the apparent complete mistrust that remains from the unforgivable “stolen lands” wrongs of our past. Let’s strongly encourage DHHL staffers, the Hawaiian Homes Commission, the Revocable Permit Ranchers’ organization, the newly resurrected Anahola Homesteader Council and the others supporting the decision to deny this partnership to get right to work at figuring out how else we can get our lands cleared of the Albizia infestation with the primary goal of bringing about homesteading for our Kauai wait list beneficiaries sooner as opposed to later! And, of course, let’s also strongly encourage all of our Kauai wait list beneficiary families to be a part of those efforts!
Silver lining — organizing our Kauai beneficiary wait list families
Finally, as advocates for beneficiary wait list families, we’re motivated at the deepest level to use this current setback to help our over 4,000 Kauai beneficiary wait list families get empowered, engaged and ready to stand up and speak out. If just 10 percent of our wait list families had someone step forward to testify, that would have been 400 people strong. The Hawaiian Homes Commission would not have been able to ignore the interests of our beneficiary wait list families, if we testified in those numbers instead of just a few of our beneficiary organization leaders. So, in part, this wrong decision is our failure as well simply for not showing up in numbers to stand up and speak out — to demand the agricultural and pastoral lease awards we’ve been waiting on for 30 years now!
If you’re on the Kaua’i wait list or would like to help organize the folks that are, please contact me at 652-3684 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about our newly forming Kauai Chapter of the Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands and find out about membership at www.ahhl.org
• KipuKai Kualii is the newly elected president of the Homestead Community Development Corporation, treasurer of the Piilani Mai Ke Kai Homeowners Association, Board member of the Anahola Hawaiian Homes Association and Board member of the Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands, a statewide wait list advocacy group.