Suit: State owes Homelands beneficiaries decades of back rent for Mauna Kea road

Updated: Feb. 13, 2020 at 5:43 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a new lawsuit, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation claims the state hasn’t been paying rent for using the land under a portion of Mauna Kea Access Road.

The suit was filed Thursday behalf of three Hawaiian Homelands beneficiaries: Edward Halealoha Ayau, Kelii “Skippy” Ioane and Pualani Kanakaole Kanahale.

They say the lawsuit is unrelated to the Thirty Meter Telescope protest at Mauna Kea.

"This issue is about holding Hawaiian Homes and the state of Hawaii to its legal duties and responsibilities," said Ayau.

“The connection though is that the stand by the kiai is what brought this issue to the forefront.”

The lawsuit claims the state took the land from Hawaiian Homelands in the 1960s to build the Mauna Kea Access Road and has violated the law by never paying rent or offering a land exchange.

The 65-acre section of land in dispute is six miles in length from the intersection at Saddle Road to slightly after the visitors station at Hale Pohaku.

“Frankly, I think this lawsuit is overdue. Thirty-two years have passed since the last action to provide some form of compensation by design to the trust under Act 14,” said Alan Murakami, attorney with Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.

They're fighting for unspecified compensation to Hawaiian Homelands and for control back to Hawaiian beneficiaries.

“The state can just walk where he like unrestricted. It’s piracy and they no pay,” said Ioane.

In previous statements, the state has said Hawaiian beneficiaries do not own the road. On Thursday, the state Attorney General’s office released this statement:

“There is no competent claim – legal or otherwise – that Mauna Kea Access Road is under the control and jurisdiction of Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL). The Department of Transportation (DOT) has control and jurisdiction over all state highways, including Mauna Kea Access Road, which is designated to DOT’s State Highway System as Route 210. Moreover, all claims related to the utilization of DHHL property for public roads and highways were resolved by Act 14 (1995). To the extent there remain any outstanding issues regarding compensation pursuant to Act 14, DHHL and the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) are in discussion."

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