BY JIM DOOLEY – Governor Neil Abercrombie made a personal appeal to legislators this morning to pass his administration’s proposal for a land transfer to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs that would permanently resolve a decades-long dispute over ceded lands.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for a commercial foundation for Native Hawaiians,” Abercrombie told members of two committees of the state House of Representatives.

The deal would give OHA ten parcels of land near the University of Hawaii medical school complex on the Honolulu waterfront worth an estimated $200 million as compensation for revenues lost from ownership or use of properties that once belonged to the Hawaiian kingdom.

“Everybody is looking out for the Hawaiians,” the governor said. “Why don’t we let the Hawaiians look out for themselves and make their own decisions?”

Also testifying in strong support of the measure, HB2521, was OHA board of

Land parcels curve around Kakaako waterfront park and medical school (OHA map)

trustees chair Colette Machado.

She said OHA trustees voted unanimously to preliminarily support the deal, although two of the eight voters expressed “strong reservations” about it. Another vote is scheduled later this week.

A map of the parcels cane be found here.

One possible sticking point to the deal is that it keeps the property under the oversight of the state’s Hawaii Community Development Authority.

The governor brought two cabinet members, Attorney General David Louie and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands deputy director Michelle Kauhane, to also testify forcefully in support of the bill.

No oral testimony was delivered in opposition although some written objections were filed with the House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and the Committee on Water, Land and Ocean Resources.

Rep. Jerry Chang, D-2nd Dist. (South Hilo, Waiakea Kai, Kaumana, Keaukaha)

chair of the WLO committee, said at the close of the hearing that the committees would defer a decision on the bill until Wednesday.

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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