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Former Gov. Abercrombie says Kakaʻako Makai needs to be developed

Hawaii's Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced the special session on gay marriage at the Hawaii Capitol in Honolulu in September. The session will begin Monday, Oct. 28.
Oskar Garcia
FILE - Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol in September 2013.

Senate committees will continue a joint hearing Thursday on a bill that would reverse a ban on residential development in Kakaʻako Makai on Oʻahu.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs owns the land, which it accepted from the state in 2012 as part of a settlement for revenue from ceded lands. But plans to build residential developments on several parcels have run into opposition.

Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie said he submitted an opinion piece to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser because he felt compelled to set the record straight after hearing OHA misrepresent the settlement as a deal that swindled Native Hawaiians.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," he wrote. "To be sure, I support OHA’s attempts to enhance the value of those lands, but not at the expense of the truth."

Abercrombie called on OHA to stop playing the victim in its portrayal of the agreement that was signed off by all the OHA trustees and the state Attorney General’s Office.

"I just felt that some of the pronouncements by the (OHA) COO who has come on the scene, you know, 10 years later, he could have used a little bit more research to get his facts straight as to whether or not that agreement, that settlement was imposed on the OHA trustees," Abercrombie said. "It was the exact opposite."

He told The Conversation on Wednesday that he has talked to representatives from OHA and is "quite content that that issue has been resolved satisfactorily."

"They're just concerned that they need to come to some kind of resolution with respect to what they're going to be able to do with Kakaʻako Makai," he said.

Abercrombie signed the historic $200 million settlement while in office in 2012. He said OHA understood that they would have to continue negotiating with the Legislature over land use laws.

A screenshot of OHA's proposed development of land parcels in Kakaʻako Makai.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs
A screenshot of OHA's proposed development of land parcels in Kakaʻako Makai.

"My opinion is Kakaʻako Makai needs to be developed," he said. "To try and overturn the whole thing and then go into something else entirely, I think would be very difficult."

"Without inhibiting any access to the shoreline and to the ocean, it's perfectly possible to have housing that meets acute needs right now without violating anybody's environmental sense or aesthetic senses. What it takes is some people who don't have a political agenda where they get to do what they want, nobody else does. What it takes is people sit down and hoʻoponopono this and work it out," he told The Conversation.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Feb. 15, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1. This story was adapted for the web by HPR's Sophia McCullough.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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