Oahu Shows No Love for Hawaii's Public Land Corp.

Sophie Cocke/Civil Beat

The fledgling movement to abolish the Public Land Development Corporation caught fire Wednesday night during a public meeting in Honolulu about the draft rules to regulate the government agency charged with partnering with private companies to develop state lands.

The PLDC has yet to execute a single project, but some of the state’s most well-known environmental and Native Hawaiian leaders are already calling for its repeal.

The small meeting room in the Kalanimoku building in downtown Honolulu was packed Wednesday night as about 150 people showed up for what stretched into a marathon four and a half hour hearing. Dozens congregated outside because they couldn’t fit inside. Police officers from DNLR stood watch to make sure the group didn't get out of control.

Eric Gill, treasurer of Unite Here, Local 5, which represents hotel workers, summed up what the crowd was feeling: "It’s not about the rules, it’s about the legislation itself.”

“This PLDC issue brought the union and environmentalists together because we all fear that the government is giving too much power and too much influence to banks and developers and not us,” he said.

A couple dozen Local 5 members in red shirts toted signs that read, “Public Land, Public Input. Don’t sell off our aina.”

The PLDC was created by legislation sponsored by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, and was signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2011 as Act 55. The corporation acts as a development arm of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Also in attendance Wednesday was Laura Thielen, former chair of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and current state Senate candidate, who made a surprise appearance at the hearing.

While the law has been promoted as a way to shore up the ailing budget of DLNR so that the department can better fulfill its conservation mission, Thielen argued that this was not the case.

“As a former chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, I can tell you unequivocally the PLDC is taking revenue from DLNR and will continue to do so,” she said.

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