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Waipio group rejects bill

April 15, 2014 - 1:51pm

The new Waipio Community Ohana voted to kill a senate bill establishing a temporary working group to help the state acquire lands in Waipio Valley during a meeting on Sunday.

SB 3063, which creates an avenue for the purchase of land in the valley currently owned by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, has sparked controversy in the valley community.

The bill also calls for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to establish a temporary working group to develop an action plan to preserve natural, cultural and historic resources in Waipio.

Sens. Gil Kahele, D-Hilo, and Malama Solomon, a democrat representing North Hawaii, introduced the measure.

SB 3063 was passed by the state House committee on finance earlier this month, with amendments made to the portions of the bill dealing with the proposed working group.

Before amendments were made, the previous working group consisted largely of government or business-affiliated representatives, including a member from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the president and chief executive of the Bishop Museum, and a member of the Waipio Taro Farmers Association.

It also limited the working group to one landowner in the valley who would be selected by the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

The latest version of the bill changed the working group to include, among others, non-commercial taro farmers, Waipio Valley kupuna, small land owners and a representative of the Hawaii County Council.

Changes came after the community at large became aware of the bill following an article published in the Tribune-Herald in March.

Valley residents and stakeholders submitted testimony expressing their concerns about the legislation and lack of community involvement as the bill progressed.

The community recently re-established the Waipio Community Ohana to form a unified voice on the issue. They met at the Waipio Valley Lookout on Sunday where Rep. Mark Nakashima was present.

With the bill currently held up in conference committees, he said he will recommend SB3063 be killed following the response from the community.

“The majority of those present voted it not to go forward,” he said Monday. “Solomon and I are in agreement that we don’t want to move forward without the community backing it.”

Although the bill was met with opposition, Nakashima said he was glad to see a response from the community.

“The one good thing that came out of this is that it sparked community involvement,” he said.

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