BY JIM DOOLEY – For the second time in three years, the state and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs have reached a tentative agreement to settle some $200 million in claims to ceded lands.

The first deal, reached by OHA in 2008 with Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration, foundered at the Legislature and the new agreement still must pass muster with lawmakers.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and OHA chairwoman Collette Machado announced that the new proposal would involve conveyance to OHA of 10 parcels of land on or near the waterfront in the Kakaako area of Honolulu.

The total value of the 25 acres of land has been appraised at between $200 million to $222 million, said Abercrombie.

Abercrombie said that ongoing development projects in the area will add to the value of the 10 parcels

“This will grow exponentially in terms of value,” said the governor.

The deal would “resolve issues that have been pending for more than 30 years,” said Abercrombie.

OHA was created by a state constitutional convention in 1978, funded by lands or revenues from lands that were originally in the hands of the Hawaiian monarchy and were eventually “ceded” to the control of the state government.

The proposal announced today would settle longstanding legal disputes over the ceded lands issue.

Once the properties are conveyed to OHA, their development would proceed with the approval of the Hawaii Community Development Authority, a state agency that oversees new construction projects in much of Kakaako.

“We tried to put together a proposal that the Legislature and the general public and the Hawaiian community can see as something that makes sense…for the development and the betterment of the Hawaiian people,” said Abercrombie. Kakaako Land List

Machado was present at the 2008 news conference when the Lingle administration’s settlement proposal was unveiled. She said today she believes this version of the deal stands a better chance of legislative and community acceptance.

“There’s going to be people that you cannot change,” she said. “But hopefully there will be more people that will stand with us.”

Senators Brickwood Galuteria and Pohai Ryan, the chair and deputy chair of the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee, attended today’s event. But two other influential senators of Hawaiian ancestry, Malama Solomon and Clayton Hee, were absent.

Machado said she spoke with Hee about attending, but he said he preferred to stay away “because he felt this was OHA’s show.”

Solomon said by telephone from the Big Island that she could not attend because of a scheduling conflict but did meet with Abercrombie about the proposal yesterday.

Solomon said she has not had time to study the details of the proposal and did not want to speculate on its chances for passage in the Senate or how it will be received by different elements of the Hawaiian community.

“I do want to compliment the governor on this offer,” she said.

“I think he’s put a lot of serious thought behind it and I think it’s a credible offer,” she said.

Details of the proposal were worked out by Attorney General David Louie and OHA attorney William Meheula.

The deal is similar to the 2008 proposal, which would have conveyed a few of the same parcels to OHA, plus other land in the Kalaeloa area of Oahu and Hilo property on the Big Island.

The 2008 plan would have given OHA a voting membership on the HCDA board, but Louie said today that’s not part of the new deal.

OHA’s relationship with the HCDA would be the same as other landowners who own property in the Kakaako area, he said.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com