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Liliʻuokalani Trust plans to sell 100 acres of legacy lands in Kona to expand youth services

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons
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The Liliʻuokalani Trust is considering selling more than 100 acres of legacy lands in Kona on Hawaiʻi Island with the proceeds from the sale going to fund an expansion of youth services on the island.

But news of the potential sale came as a surprise to some in the community who are demanding greater transparency and beneficiary input in the sale of trust lands.

 Jill Beatty, Program Director at the soon-to-be opened Liliʻuokalani Trust Ranch
Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi
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HPR
Jill Beatty, Program Director at the soon-to-be-opened Liliʻuokalani Trust Ranch in Waimea, feeds two pot-bellied pigs - Marley and Bowie. The 10-acre therapeutic LT Ranch will provide Native Hawaiian youth the space for healing through animals, arts, and ʻāina.

It’s feeding time for the two potbellied pigs at the soon-to-be-opened Liliʻuokalani Trust or LT Ranch in Waimea on Hawaiʻi Island.

“On your left here is Marley or Mar-Mar and this is Bowie. This is a no-no on their diet. But this is a special day isn’t it?” says veteran social worker Jill Beatty, program director at LT Ranch. “The animals are very much a part of our team. We have two horses here Teddy and Gigi. We have two pigs, two goats, two sheep.”

Beatty says the 10-acre ranch will provide Native Hawaiian youth with a space for healing through animals, arts, and ʻāina.

“They’ll get to feed pigs, they’ll get to groom horses. They’ll get to do some one-on-one work with horses as part of our equine therapy program. Doing all the kinds of things that people do when they grow up on a ranch, hoping to provide that experience of reconnecting. It’s all about connections and healing here."

The LT Ranch is part of a significant expansion in services for Native Hawaiian youth on Hawaiʻi Island, to be funded in large part by the potential sale of approximately 100 acres of trust land in and around Kona Industrial Park.

Proceeds of the sale will be redeployed to other youth spaces in Keaʻau, Waimea, Kona, as well as Kaunakakai, Pukalani, Līhuʻe and Honolulu.

It’s a shift in strategy that some are meeting with skepticism. Gwen Kim is a retired social worker who spent three decades with the trust.

“We’re very alarmed of this corporate direction that has been led by the trustees over the last 15 years or so,” says Kim. “Of course, on paper, it looks wonderful with all the revenues, and they have lots of monies coming in from the sale of these lands. But like with all the historic legacy lands of the aliʻi, we know what happens, once the lands are lost, they are lost into perpetuity.”

LT Lands in Kona.png
Liliuokalani Trust

Queen Liliʻuokalani left nearly her entire estate of more than 6,000 acres to care for orphaned and disadvantaged Native Hawaiian children.

In recent years, the trust began to sell its revenue-generating lands in Waikīkī, Kalihi, and now Kona to create “mission spaces” to provide direct services to Native Hawaiian youth.

Kim says she’s frustrated with the lack of beneficiary input in trustee decisions.

“No, no. You have to be really in your heart wanting to hear them,” says Kim. “They don’t want to hear.”

In a statement to HPR, LT leadership says it values beneficiary input and has engaged beneficiary communities in the past. But when it comes to real estate transactions, LT maintains that trustees are fully empowered by Lili’uokalaniʻs 1909 Deed of Trust to sell trust lands when it is in the best interest of the trust — with or without beneficiary input.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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