HONOLULU – After nearly 30 years of working towards an agreement with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), Governor Neil Abercrombie today signed into law a measure that settles OHA’s unresolved claims to income and proceeds from ceded lands. Senate Bill 2783 conveys contiguous and adjacent parcels in Kaka’ako Makai valued at $200 million to resolve this dispute.
“Settling this longstanding issue was a top priority for me and for my Administration,” said Governor Abercrombie. “This agreement that is now law, took a lot of hard work and collaboration. I appreciate all those who took the time to make this right, including the Legislature for making sure that all sides were heard.”
OHA Board of Trustees Chairwoman Colette Machado stated, “The Board of Trustees is grateful to the Governor for his leadership in making this settlement a reality. We would also like to thank the Legislature for making this a priority and the Native Hawaiian Community and its leaders for their support of the bill.”
The State and OHA agree that a $200 million approximate settlement amount represents a reasonable compromise of the disputed claims. To satisfy that amount, the State is conveying adjacent parcels in Kaka’ako Makai, which includes Fisherman’s Wharf.
“The Kaka’ako community also deserves a lot of credit for its stewardship over this area,” added Chair Machado. “We are committed to making sure the land is used in a responsible way that will benefit the entire community. We will balance cultural and environmental considerations with the need to support programs that benefit the Native Hawaiian community.”
Terms of the Settlement
The lands are and will remain under the jurisdiction of the Hawai’i Community Development Authority (HCDA), and will continue to be subject to HCDA’s zoning and other land use conditions. The lands will be conveyed “as is,” “where is.”
The State is not giving up any mineral, surface or ground water rights to this land. The State will also have access rights and easements as reasonably necessary for the benefit and use of its adjoining properties. Additionally, all current leases are still valid and will pass to OHA. Once those leases expire, OHA will decide how to proceed, consistent with HCDA’s master plans and rules.
In exchange for the land, OHA will release, waive and discharge any and all claims that it, and any other person or entity, might make to ceded lands receipts under article XII, sections 4 and 6 of the Constitution, or any related statute or law, for the period from 1978 to July 1, 2012.
The settlement has no effect on claims related to sovereignty, or claims related to ceded lands receipts after July 2012, which are currently governed by Act 178 (2006). Pursuant to that Act, OHA’s current annual share of ceded lands receipts is $15.1 million. The settlement only applies to claims for ceded lands receipts that the State collected between 1978 and 2012.
Article XII, section 4 of the State Constitution, provides that certain lands ceded by the United States to the State of Hawai’i as part of the Admission Act (section 5(f), are held by the State as a public trust for native Hawaiians and the general public. These are known as the ceded lands.
Under article XII, section 6 of 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 these claims. All lawsuits have been 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.