Saturday, December 15, 2012


Honolulu Star Advertiser - December 12, 2012

By Jon K. Osorio

Governor Neil Abercrombie and House Speaker Calvin Say have wisely said that they will consider a repeal of the Public Land Development Corp.

Say has tried to defend his approval of a waiver that gave the public less than two hours notice for a public hearing on the bill that established the PLDC ("PLDC bill hearing waiver was not unprecedented or premeditated," Star-Advertiser, Island Voices, Nov. 29).

He also said he does "not believe that the PLDC would abuse the exemption authority."

The reality, however, is that government does not operate on personal beliefs. There is no mechanism in the PLDC law to ensure it upholds its constitutional obligation to protect the public's interests,

The public response that originally Abercrombie described as "hysteria" was actually a widely diverse resistance coming from environmentalists, farmers, labor unions, Hawaiian sovereignty and independence groups, schools, counties and individuals — all united against a law that would have allowed a small group of individuals to spur the commercial development of public lands, including the "ceded lands," without input and opposition from the public or following the state's own land-use, zoning or construction laws.

Here is the reality - Better management of state-controlled lands is a necessity. Hawai`i has incredibly rich resources, many of which — like fisheries and agricultural lands — have been wasted or hustled into development because it provides short-term jobs and revenues for the state.

For example, sacred lands have been leased to the university for multimillion-dollar telescopes on Mauna Kea for $1 a year, without considering the environmental costs and the insult to Native Hawaiian cultural beliefs.

Yet, Hawaii's resources are part of a "public trust," originally created by the Hawaiian monarchy and adopted in the state Constitution.

The government is mandated to properly manage and balance the use of these lands, in conjunction with the people.

Management requires intelligent consultation that is not simply a wholesale genuflecting to business and commercial interest.

Proper management must include input from cultural practitioners, farmers, fishermen, environmentalists, labor, business people, educators, planners — a wide body of the community that can help the government make balanced decisions about our special places in the context of future use of Hawai`i's lands.

And all of this must be done with the recognition that Hawaiian political claims to these lands could result in a profound change to that management.

Handing the storehouse keys to developers and real estate agents will not ensure prosperity. Wider consultation and participation is a far better alternative.

Repeal the PLDC and start over.

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