Iwi in Limbo as Oahu Burial Council's Hiatus Hits Record Five Months

Hawaii Community Development Authority

It's been a record-setting five months since the Oahu Burial Council last met, potentially delaying projects such as resorts and infrastructure plans that need approvals from the committee to move forward.

The burial council, one of five in the state, is in charge of making determinations about what to do with Hawaiian burial remains, or iwi, that developers encounter during construction projects. And without determinations about whether remains are to be left in place or removed, developments that require archaeological inventory surveys can't proceed.

"Not being able to meet means the developer and anybody else with iwi concerns, the community, has no outlet and no venue to express their views and opinions," said Hinaleimoana Kalu, chair of the Oahu Burial Council. "There is no outlet whereby they are able to seek council guidance. Developers aren't able to share the latest updates and follow through with guidelines they must follow."

The council has only met once this year — in January — because Gov. Neil Abercrombie has yet to appoint someone who represents a large landowner or developer to the council. Without the member, the council, which is supposed to meet once a month, lacks a quorum.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, a spokeswoman for the governor, said that Abercrombie was expected to make a decision this week in time for the next scheduled meeting on June 13. She said that it has been hard to find someone who meets the qualifications and is willing to serve.

It's not just up to the governor's office. The State Historic Preservation Division is in charge of vetting candidates and making recommendations to the governor. That agency is under fire from the federal government, which is threatening to revoke its certification and withdraw funding, for being slow to hire necessary staff and delays in processing permits.

William Aila, director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which oversees SHPD, also said that it has been difficult to attract landowners and developers.

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