State Legislature Edges Closer to Waimea Approval

House Committee passes $1.6 million for Valley acquisition

A rare aerial view of one of the isolated valleys of Waimea; untouched and uninhabited today, it will remain so

Excerpts from HB2188, proposed to the Twenty-Third Hawaii State Legislature, House of Representatives, January 2006

Preliminary archaeological surveys indicate that Waimea valley, Oahu, was inhabited by native Hawaiians from approximately A.D. 1100.... It is reputed that Kamehameha recognized the importance of Waimea valley when he awarded the valley to his top spiritual advisor, Hewahewa....

Today, the 1,875 acre valley, the only remaining intact ahupua'a on the island of Oahu, remains a rich and sacred cultural, historic, and aesthetic resource for the entire State. The bottom or makai three hundred acres of the valley contain many known cultural resources, including agricultural terraces, kauhale kahiko or ancient living sites, a heiau dedicated to Lono, the god of agriculture, weather, medicine, and peace, a hale iwi or house of bones, and a platform of large boulders believed to be the burial site of a high priest or chief.

Waimea valley is also the home of many species of endemic and migratory avifauna... The valley flora includes many endemic and endangered species of native Hawaiian plants and trees...

Today, the legislature finds that this vast treasure may be lost to the people of Hawaii. ...The legislature finds that it is important to the people of Hawaii to preserve and protect Waimea valley.

The purpose of this Act is to make an appropriation for the purchase of the entire Waimea valley, Oahu, comprised of 1,875 acres.

Support for the Waimea Acquisition

At a crowded meeting of the Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee of the House of Representatives, February 8, 2006, the issue of allocating $1.6 million in State funds to the acquisition of Waimea Valley was raised for public discussion.

HB2188 was introduced by 21 State Representatives, a bi-partisan group headed by Michael Magaoay, who represents the North Shore. A companion bill, HB2400, was also introduced which deals with the specifics of the appropriation requested.

Dozens of individuals and community groups rose to speak in support of the bills. One of the Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Linda Dela Cruz, rose to say she preferred that the State spend no money on this acquisition, allowing OHA to make the full $14.1 million purchase on its own, using Hawaiian funds only. Others supported this opinion in principle, but recognized that, in practical terms, the Valley acquisition has been well-structured and approved by the State Court as a partnership of several groups, with OHA in the lead and taking title.

The Stewards of Waimea submitted written testimony in favor of the bills, along with oral testimony, noting in support of Mrs. Dela Cruz that the State should use this opportunity to recognize the central role of native Hawaiians in determining the future of the Valley, with full community participation; and to attract support for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs from government, public, non-profit and business people throughout the State. Here are some excerpts from the Stewards' written testimony:

Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee
Room 329, State Capitol
Honolulu, HI. Feb.8, 2006

Re: HB 2188 and HB 2400
Excerpts from Written Testimony by the Stewards of Waimea Valley

…it is appropriate for the Committee to pause briefly at this point, to consider why we, the people, are spending public funds in this way, and what result we are seeking to achieve. This is not just about the acquisition of a valuable piece of real estate on the North Shore. If this were just a real estate deal, it would not have happened.

This acquisition will correctly repose ownership of an historic ahupua'a, the ancient home and refuge of Hawaiian kings, priests and scholars, in the hands of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs...OHA is the right choice for owner of the Valley. We congratulate all the parties to the settlement on their wisdom in seeing that. To reach its potential and to benefit all the communities that make up modern Hawaii, it is right that this special Valley be owned by its original people.

OHA has the vision and understanding of what should be done in the Valley, and there is strong support among local Hawaiian people on the North Shore for OHA's core idea -- Waimea Valley as the home to a reborn Hawaiian culture, shared openly with the world. …They may need help in establishing a formal policy on land acquisition and land management, and in a range of operational areas -- making the decisions on finance, the business model, conservation, research, archeology, technology, energy, communications, endangered and rare species, public affairs and marketing that will make Waimea a success.

…OHA may welcome the assistance of the relevant State agencies in the areas described above -- not as direct planners or managers, and not necessarily with budget dollars, but with supportive advice and ideas….We also believe there is ready and willing expertise in the private sector, in the City/County, in the non-profit sector, in universities and in the Federal government -- people who would rush to OHA's side with their experience and information if invited, to help make Waimea a success. OHA already has an established partner in the National Audubon Society, and there is much more that can be added to guarantee Waimea's productive future.

[We recommend] that the Committee find an appropriate way to issue a call, or kahea… for support of OHA, to fulfill their vision of a Hawaiian-led, universally-open Waimea Valley that will be an asset to all our citizens…

The kahea should go to all: come back to Waimea. Help, build, and grow.

The Bill passed this Committee hearing easily, with all six members present voting in favor; as of this writing, the Bill is scheduled to go to the Finance Committee before being presented to the House. A companion bill, SB2363, has been introduced in the Senate by Senate President Robert Bunda; it has passed first reading, and is making its way through the Committee process as well.