The Hawaiian Homes Commission today narrowly approved a proposal to pursue the development of a casino resort on lands set aside for Native Hawaiians in Kapolei.
By a 5-4 vote, the commission intends to forward to Gov. David Ige a proposed bill that would permit the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which manages the 203,000-acre land trust for a homesteading program, to lease trust lands for a single casino on property designated for commercial purposes in the West Oahu community.
If Ige approves it, the measure would be introduced as part of the governor’s package of bills submitted to the Legislature.
The proposal was opposed by some commissioners mainly because of what they said was insufficient information to evaluate it and because the proposal had not been discussed first with trust beneficiaries — those at least 50% Hawaiian — before it abruptly was floated last week by the department.
But Chairman William J. Aila Jr. said any delay beyond the coming legislative session likely would doom the proposal.
The action was sought in response to a recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser and ProPublica investigation that identified a status quo that is leaving thousands of low-income Native Hawaiians behind, and because of the expected budget cuts facing state government due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Department officials and many others said the status quo was unacceptable, but finding the huge sums needed to develop more homesteading lots to get beneficiaries onto the land on a more timely basis has been daunting.