`Ano`ai kakou… Here are two important issues affecting Native Hawaiians that require special attention:
The 11,300 acres of land within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve are public land trust lands classified under section 5(b) of the Admissions Act. The revenues from public trust lands must be dedicated to specific purposes including the betterment of Native Hawaiians.
House Bill 1689 requires the University of Hawai’i to use the fair market value for the lease of lands when calculating the amount of funds that it must transfer to the public land trust fund.
OHA receives a portion of revenues generated from the use of these public land trust lands. HB 1689 will ensure that OHA and its beneficiaries receive adequate compensation for any future subleases.
Mauna Kea lands have long been mismanaged by UH. Sacred cultural lands have been industrially developed without any payment or clear benefit to Native Hawaiians.
At the same time, UH has been receiving a substantial benefit from its lessees in the form of telescope time, which has been valued in some cases at more than $100,000 a night. This benefit has mostly gone only to the astronomy program at UH; since none of this value is seen as sub-lessee rent. OHA beneficiaries and the State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) have not received a fair share of this substantial revenue.
To avoid possible fiscal impacts to the University of Hawai’i’s educational mission, any proposed general lease for Mauna Kea lands should require UH to charge more appropriate rent for the sublease or use of such lands. This would ensure that OHA beneficiaries and the State receive appropriate compensation for the use of these public land trust lands, and ensures that UH also receives adequate revenues to support its broader educational mission.
It should also be noted that the requirement for UH to conduct a financial review of all public land trust revenue will help to identify gaps in revenue from public land trust lands, as well as clarify what revenues may be generated from specific lands, such as Mauna Kea.
In the meantime, OHA should also propose a financial audit of all revenues UH derives from its use of public trust lands. This will allow OHA to ensure more appropriate level of benefits flow to public trust beneficiaries for the use of our sacred mountain. Finally, UH’s authority to manage public trust lands must be reevaluated because of its continual abuse and mismanagement of our precious lands.
Senate Bill 180 SD2 proposes to give one individual resident on Niihau the exclusive konohiki rights to regulate fishing around Niihau. The konohiki will be appointed by the Chairperson of BLNR, in consultation with the private owner of Niihau.
While I understand the arguments in support of this proposal, I believe that we must be very careful about setting a precedence of having only one person making all of the fishing rules for an entire island. Especially if that person may have vested interests to protect and could abuse their power as Konohiki to lock out any competition.