HONOLULU (KHON2) — Native Hawaiian groups continue to oppose a controversial land lease bill that state lawmakers approved on April 27.

HB499 would allow 100-year leases of public lands, which would privatize public trust resources.

“This bill would give developers a century to do whatever they like with public lands, foreclosing Native Hawaiian rights and claims to these public lands, including lands illegally seized from the Hawaiian Kingdom because of the overthrow. When will lawmakers listen to the people?” said Healani Sonoda-Pale, Public Affairs Officer of Ka Lāhui Hawai’i Kōmike Kalai’āina, in a statement.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) would have the authority to negotiate 40-year lease extensions with industrial, commercial, resort, mixed-use, and government/military lessees of public lands.

That’s in addition to the existing 65-year leases.

More than 40 organizations signed a letter to lawmakers advocating against the measure, citing DLNR’s long and dismal track record in managing public lands.  

“Instead of reassessing uses at the end of existing 65-year leases, and making new determinations on the best potential uses of our public lands, the DLNR and BLNR would be allowed to simply extend these uses for another four decades, in exchange for infrastructure and building upgrades that all but guarantee the further continuation of potentially inappropriate or outdated uses,” the letter said.

Opponents of the bill continue to ask Gov. David Ige to veto HB499 as it sits on his desk for consideration. On May 7, Native Hawaiian groups organized a sign-waving rally at Washington Place. They will be rallying again on Friday and over the weekend.