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Court stops Kawaiahao work citing ruling on rail burials

    Removal of human burials next to Kawaiaha‘o Church on grounds slated for a new building has averaged 14 a week since mid-November. The total count stood at 238 as of Jan. 21. Part of the construction site is shrouded by black material and fencing.

The state appeals court ordered a halt this morning to Kawaiaha’o Church’s construction of its multipurpose center that could result in the disinterment of burials.

A three-member panel of the Intermediate Court of Appeals granted an injunction halting the work.

Hawaiian cultural specialist Dana Naone Hall requesed the court to halt the construction pending an appeal of a circuit judge’s ruling dismissing her lawsuit against the $17.5 million project.

The panel unanimously issued the injunction in view of the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling last month that held the State Historic Preservation Division should have required an archaeological survey for remains for the entire 20-mile rail route before construction began.

Hall said in a statement: “It has taken three long years. This case spans the end of the Lingle Administration and the first years of the Abercrombie Administration, during which time the SHPD has routinely failed to follow its own rules to the detriment of historic properties and burial sites.  I am very grateful to the Intermediate Court of Appeals for reaffirming that there is a vital public interest in protecting human skeletal remains and burial sites ‘regardless of race, religion, or cultural origin.’ Although approximately 700 individuals have been disturbed at Kawaiaha`o, there are many hundreds more who can continue to rest in peace.”

The appeals court had denied an earlier request for an injunction, but Hall said there were three “significant developments” since then, including the high court’s ruling, the circuit court’s denial of an injunction, and the number of burials unearthed had “mushroomed to nearly 600.”

Hall had acknowledged that it might be “prudent” for the appeals court to wait for the resolution of the city’s request asking the high court to reconsider its rail decision.

The high court denied the reconsideration request Thursday.

The appeals court ruled that until the appeal is decided, “Kawaiaha’o Church is enjoined from the disinterment of human skeletal remains or iwi from Kawaiaha’o Church grounds that are related to the (multipurpose center) project.”

It also ordered that “Kawaiaha’o Church is enjoined from all construction activities related to the (multipurpose center) project that could result in the disinterment of human skeletal remains or iwi.”

Order granting plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injuction

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