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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 3, 2006

OHA trustees give go-ahead to proposed revenue deal

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs' board yesterday approved a proposal for a partial settlement between the state agency and the state over ceded lands.

Board members voted 8-0 during a closed-door session to approve the plan, which calls for OHA's share of undisputed revenue sources from ceded lands to increase to $15.1 million annually. It now gets about $10 million annually.

Trustee Rowena Akana, the only OHA board member to voice opposition to the proposed settlement, was absent.

The proposal also calls for a one-time payment of $17.5 million as payment for a share of revenues that the Lingle administration now agrees OHA should receive.

The plan must still win approval from the Legislature. The House Hawaiian Affairs Committee yesterday deferred action on a bill approving the settlement until Feb. 15.

Ceded lands are the 1.4 million-plus acres of former crown and government lands once part of the Hawaiian kingdom held in trust by the state.

The state constitution earmarks a share of revenues from the use of ceded lands for the benefit of Native Hawaiians, with OHA given the duty to manage and administer those funds. The Legislature, however, has final say over how much OHA should receive.

The proposal does not address revenue sources under dispute by the Lingle administration and OHA such as revenue for use of sections of land beneath Hilo Hospital, the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, the Honolulu and Hilo airports and DFS shops throughout the state.

Those disputes are being litigated and are subject to ongoing talks.

Dante Carpenter and Oswald Stender, two of the four trustees who made up OHA's negotiating team along with OHA administrator Clyde Namu'o, said after the meeting that they are pleased with the agreement, which was reached during talks that lasted more than a year.

"The governor's team was very forthright in all of our discussions," Carpenter said.

"It's about time," Stender said.

Akana, who was on her way to the American Indian Economic Development Conference in Las Vegas, gave her colleagues a memo explaining her concerns about the proposed partial settlement. Akana questioned the $17.5 million for the one-time portion, as well as the future payments.

She said that she and other board members did not receive enough information to make a decision and that "we had not had the opportunity to decide as a group that these amounts were acceptable."

Akana said she's inclined to think that the numbers are too low, particularly since they are similar to what OHA was receiving from the state in ceded revenues in the mid-1990s.

OHA administrator Namu'o said the $17.5 million payment is not meant as a settlement of "back due" amounts, but represents additional revenues from categories not paid since at least 2001 that the administration now agrees OHA should share.

Namu'o declined to disclose further details about settlement figures, citing the need for confidentiality during negotiations.

OHA members cited the pending negotiations and ongoing litigation as the reasons for yesterday's closed-door proceedings.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com.