By: Trustee Rowena Akana
March 6, 1998
Another Opportunity for the People…. To Lose!!
Governor Ben Cayetano is calling for privatization of the State Historic Preservation Division. His suggestion calls for the firing of Historic Preservation Division staff, and reassigning their work to archaeologists who would be hired by developers to review their work. What a sweetheart deal this is…for the developers and consultants. It will save the State money primarily because the State is removing itself from most of the process, but it sells out their responsibility to monitor and prevent actions that are culturally and environmentally insensitive. These suggestions to “pass the buck” by the Governor, Legislators, and Joe Souki have once again placed the general public and the Hawaiian people in the loser column.
Allowing developers to hire their own hand-picked archeologists is tantamount to saying that all developers are not only honest and honorable, but culturally sensitive to the historic importance of our Aina. Does H-3 ring any alarm bells for you? We have a history of developers trying to brush aside any considerations for the history and culture of these islands.
“Letting developers hire archaeologists to review their projects is like ‘letting the Mafia police the Mafia,'” said Patrick Kirch of the University of California, Berkeley, in a recent Honolulu Advertiser article. Giving this kind of power to developers could lead to abuses that would allow high rise condos and shopping centers to be built on sacred refuges or burial grounds which are so important to Hawaii’s history. This form of privatization has some serious drawbacks, but the greatest concern is that it will diminish the quality of historic preservation work in Hawaii and allow greater destruction of Hawaiian sites and burials for the sake of development. The opportunity for the developer to skew the review in their favor is great since he is the employer of both the consultant doing the study, and the consultant reviewing it for adequacy.
The State has previously shown its tendency to avoid its statutory responsibilities in the handling of the burials program within the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). For the past two years OHA has funded two positions, including all the fringe benefits, for the burials program although the statutes mandate positions for this program, and the Legislature provides funding for it. Why is OHA funding positions for which the State has responsibility? Perhaps it’s another form of privatizing. Again, the State is passing the buck. There have been attempts to permanently move this program to OHA, but by doing so the program would lose its purpose because OHA has no enforcement powers. Moving this program to OHA would be detrimental to its existence unless the Governor and Legislature work to grant OHA enforcement powers, as required by statute.
In November 1997, I criticized the effort by the Governor and DLNR to privatize small boat harbors. In the article, I pointed out that WestRec Marinas lobbied the Governor and Michael Wilson, hoping to get a consulting agreement with DLNR to manage small boat harbors for the State. My concern then was for the people. What would happen to the local fishermen and the submerged lands in the harbor when boat harbors became privatized?
My concern is still that of the people of this state, and of the Aina. Whether the Governor privatizes the State Historic Preservation Division or the management of small boat harbors more public input is needed before being seriously considered.
Over the last two years I have watched what appears to be a very sinister move on the part of the administration and certain legislators to create commissions and divisions of the State government to divide and parcel out sections of ceded land so as to remove them from the main corpus of ceded lands. We only have to look at the bills being introduced into the Legislature to see this. Upon statehood in 1959, the State Constitution named two beneficiaries of Hawaiian lands: the Native Hawaiians and the general public. Therefore, it is my view that the general public should be as concerned as the Hawaiian people are that the State government does not breach its fiduciary responsibility as trustees to the public land trust. In the 1998 general elections we must tell these legislators that they can no longer mismanage our tax dollars and then cover their tracks with the use of ceded land.