Tension is rising as the debate over Hawai‘i’s Public Land Development Corporation continues. According to the PLDC website, the corporation was made to “develop state lands and generate revenues for the Department of Land and Natural Resources.” Protests and hearings against the PLDC are happening on O‘ahu as well as neighboring islands. On Oct. 8, Hawai‘i residents showed their solidarity against the PLDC by holding rallies on their home islands. The Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy organization, and Hawai‘i’s Thousand Friends, an organization dedicated to ensuring that reasonable and responsible land use decisions are made, have also voiced opposition to the corporation.
Why are Hawai‘i residents against the PLDC?
Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed the PLDC into law as Act 55 in 2011. As it stands now, Act 55 gives the board of the PLDC a huge amount of power to develop public lands in any way it wants to, from deciding which lands to develop to putting any sort of development they want on the land. Along with this power come many exemptions from laws that are in place to protect the land in Hawai‘i. The PLDC has five board members. Mary Alice Evans, the deputy director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; Kalbert Young, director of the Department of Budget and Finance and William Aila, Jr., chairman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources are three of the board members. The House Speaker and the Senate President selected the other two board members; former Sen. Robert Bunda and Duane Kurisu, a local real estate attorney.
A Bad Idea
Keiko Bonk, candidate for the House of Representatives for District 20, is one of the PLDC’s most adamant opponents. In a recent interview, Bonk said that Act 55, “…takes away public checks and balances… There are only five guys on [the PLDC board]. That means a three-person majority. Three people in Hawai‘i can make these huge decisions, bypassing every law we have…it’s a bad idea.”
Support for the PLDC
In spite of all the public opposition, the PLDC has its supporters. Senators Donavan Dela Cruz and Malama Solomon continue to support the PLDC and Gov. Neil Abercrombie is also working to defend it. On October 2, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser quoted the governor as saying that the PLDC “is one of our best opportunities to work cooperatively and align public and private interests toward the enhancement, protection, conservation and management of public lands for Hawai‘i’s people.”
In spite of the governor’s assurances about the goodness of the PLDC, most Hawai‘i residents continue to feel that the corporation is a looming threat to the state because of its unprecedented power and long list of exemptions from the laws that are in place to protect the land and people of Hawai‘i.