By: Trustee Rowena Akana
Source: Kai Wai Ola o OHA, August 1997
Last month, the U.S. Marines had planned an amphibious landing at Makua Beach. The five-day exercise was to begin with an amphibious assault on the beach, followed by live-fire training in the valley. The community was outraged, and rightly so. The Wai’anae Coast Neighborhood Board, Hui Malama o Makua, Pastor Kaleo Patterson (organizer of the demonstrations leading up to the day of the scheduled landing) and the Hawai’i Ecumenical Coalition rose to protest the intrusion of the military onto sacred land at Makua. The protest caused Governor Cayetano to meet with Admiral Prueher (commander-in-chief, Pacific Command), and a meeting with representatives of the community ensued. The military changed its plans and landed at Bellows Air Force Station instead. While Frenchy DeSoto proclaimed this a major victory, this was anything but a victory. All it did was postpone the inevitable.
The military has not ruled out future training activities in the area which is held sacred by Hawaiians. Using live ammunition, and firing into a beautiful sacred valley in the middle of thriving communities is insane. Would the military try this in other states for 65 years? Let’s see if other communities in America will allow them to do this.
The people of Hawai’i must become more involved in what our state officials are doing on our behalf.
One could argue all day about being ready for war, but let’s be realistic. If there is a third world war, no one would be fighting in hand-to-hand combat. The fight would be a nuclear one and none of us would have to worry about Makua Valley, or anywhere else.
In 1964, the state leased Makua to the Army for $1 for 65 years until the year 2029. The lease allows the military to use the beach for maneuvers, but in doing so, it infringes on the community’s public access rights.
During 1ast year’s legislative session, the governor and the legislature decried the poor condition of state finances and how departments and programs would have to tighten down to run more efficiently with less money. But while they are selling the sob story of “no money,” they, at the same time, give away prime lands at $1 for 65 years, denying us -the constituency and beneficiaries – our fair share of revenues: 20 percent – OHA beneficiaries; 80 percent – general public beneficiaries. This debacle allows potentially millions of state dollars to be lost.
The protest at Makua raises questions, not only about access, but about state accountability in meeting its responsibilities to the public trust.
* Shouldn’t there be a review of state land leases? Because of the state’s rationale for low lease rent, an impartial third party should do the review.
* For how much of our valuable ceded lands are we not receiving proper compensation? When potential revenue is allowed to slip away, we get short-changed in education, human services, health and other benefits.
* Why weren’t access requirements considered in the lease of Makua? The state must let the military know that it cannot lease valuable land for bombings, live ammunition firing and training. Although the governor met with Admiral Prueher to change the landing site, this wasn’t resolved when the lease was given in 1964. The target of protest should be the administration, not necessarily the military, because the state can revoke the lease at any time.
* The state doesn’t own lands; it is the trustee for these lands. Shouldn’t it be more accountable for their management of these lands?
It’s time we (the public) demand that the state take its responsibilities seriously as trustee of our public trust. We have allowed them to mismanage our lands for too long! Should we be considering hiring private counsel to investigate the state for their mismanagement of our public land trust?