Hawaii Land Corp. Pushes Forward on Projects, Despite Lack of Rules

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The new agency tasked with developing state lands is hoping to move forward on its first projects — even though it hasn't finalized rules that govern its operations and establish the criteria by which projects are chosen.

And this isn't going over well with leaders of environmental groups, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and members of the public who showed up Wednesday for the Public Land Development Corporation's monthly board meeting.

"I do think that at this stage there are not sufficient protections to ensure the projects are culturally sensitive," said Jocelyn Doane, of OHA's public policy program.

The proposed projects include developing lands currently being farmed in the Ewa Plain on Oahu, extending a land permit for a bee farmer by hundred of acres, and making capital improvements at Olomana Golf Course.

The PLDC, which acts as a private development arm of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, was created last year by legislation sponsored by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz. It has attracted criticism for its broad powers that potentially allow thousands of acres of state lands to be developed by private companies. The language of the law provides examples of projects ranging from hotels to parking lots.

PLDC supporters have said that the corporation will not allow unbridled development. But rather it enables the state to shore up decaying infrastructure, improve park facilities, encourage responsible development and conservation projects. The development projects would also help bring in extra revenue to the cash-strapped DLNR, which is struggling to carry out its responsibilities to protect Hawaii's natural resources, such as critical watershed areas.

Early on, the corporation's board touted the rules as a mechanism, in part, to make sure that any development moved forward in environmentally and culturally sensitive ways.

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