Hawai`i Public Land Development Corp Lambasted

West Hawaii Today - August 22, 2012

Kona resident Shannon Rudolph took three words to sum up the major concerns West Hawaii residents have about proposed rules to govern the Public Land Development Corp.

“Grand theft `aina,” Rudolph said during a public hearing at Konawaena High School Tuesday evening, while referencing worries that the corporation, which state Legislators empowered last year to develop Department of Land and Natural Resources’ and other state land, would rob residents of open land.

Testimony during the two-hour hearing, which more than 50 people attended, was unanimously against the corporation and the rules, which, testifiers also noted, the corporation has the power to waive anyway. More than two dozen people provided testimony.

“This is how freedom is taken,” Jon Biloon said. “I can’t build a drying deck on my farm to dry my mac nuts without running through bureaucratic red tape. These guys are going to be able to dredge Honokohau Harbor. … The fact that our representatives passed a law to allow a corporation to ignore (land use laws) … this is the sword to our heart.”

Kaliko Chun questioned the rules’ legitimacy. “I am in opposition to rules that are a sham,” Chun said. “The rules are made for a total development of public trust lands.”

Several testifiers focused their comments on the 1893 overthrown of the Hawaiian kingdom government.

“Under the laws of occupation, proceeding with your projects, you will be committing war crimes of which you can and will be held accountable,” Robert Freitas Jr. said. “We know this is wrong. You know this is wrong and now you cannot say that you didn’t know.”

Only two elected officials — South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford and Rep. Faye Hanohano, who represents Puna — attended the meeting. No members of the Public Land Development Corp. attended, an absence an early testifier noted.

Ford called the PLDC legalized theft. “This is anarchy in process,” Ford said. “This new law erases all of the work we have done in order to protect our rights to our own destiny. The PLDC allows lawlessness and anarchy to reign because of greed under the guise of development of land for our people.”

She said she was disappointed that Gov. Neil Abercrombie, whom she supported, signed the enabling legislation into law, and she encouraged people to support Hanohano’s efforts to get the law repealed.

Hawaii County officials said they were concerned about the PLDC’s authority, and the rules that allow the corporation to bypass county planning requirements. “We just want to convey to DLNR that we want to have input,” Mayor Billy Kenoi said Tuesday afternoon. Fishermen, hunters and other Hawai`i Island residents have complained to Kenoi about DLNR restricting access to various sites around the island.

“This Public Land Development Corp. could exacerbate that sense” of being denied access to the island’s open space, Kenoi added.

He said he was trying to set up a meeting with DLNR Chairman William Aila in the next few weeks to discuss his concerns. Planning Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd said she planned to send several of her employees to Tuesday’s meeting, to gather information on the rules changes and the PLDC itself. She said she has a meeting already scheduled with PLDC Executive Director Lloyd Haraguchi to talk about the corporation’s plans.

“I would like them to comply with our general plan and the community development plans,” she said Tuesday afternoon.

Several people said they would like to see legal action taken against the state to stop the corporation.

“We’re going to fight,” Melvin Mason said.

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