Hawaii property exchange seeks to aid Honolulu rail project

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii land officials have started to arrange a property exchange to aid construction of a multibillion-dollar rail transit line, but Native Hawaiians have raised concerns about the trade.

The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands intends to give the city of Honolulu a residential land lot in Waipahu worth more than $21 million in exchange for agricultural land the city owns in Kapolei worth less than $5 million.

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The planned trade shortchanges a land trust they have with the department, some Native Hawaiian beneficiaries said.

“When you look at the numbers, it just doesn’t make sense,” said Blossom Feiteira. “Why are they giving our trust lands away?”

The Hawaiian Homes Commission, which oversees the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, approved the deal in 2006. However, the transaction has not been completed because appraisals have not been done and Department of the Interior approval is needed.

“The new appraisal report will determine the fair value on these properties for the land exchange,” Hawaii Home Lands spokesman Cedric Duarte said. “DOI requires equal value exchange, not just in terms of dollars.”

When asked about the value fairness of the exchange, Duarte said that those values are based on different uses from residential to agricultural.

This deal is another example of government abuse of the trust, said Robin Danner, another beneficiary and Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations chair.

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“How is giving our trust lands to rail — (land) that is valued five times more than the county lands they want to give us — helpful to us?” he said.

The city has a licensing agreement to use the Waipahu parcel, officials said. And has already constructed a rail maintenance and storage facility on the department land.

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