The state House of Representatives on Tuesday voted in favor of a bill establishing a temporary working group to help the state acquire lands in Waipio Valley.
Forty-nine representatives voted for SB 3063, which creates an avenue for the purchase of land in the valley currently owned by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum.
The bill also calls for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to establish a temporary working group to develop an action plan to preserve natural, cultural and historic resources in Waipio.
Oahu Reps. Della Au Belatti and Marcus Oshiro were excused from the vote.
Sens. Gil Kahele, D-Hilo, and Malama Solomon, D-Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa and Kona, introduced the measure.
SB 3063 was passed by the state House committees on finance Wednesday, with amendments made to the portions of the measure dealing with the proposed working group.
Before amendments were made, the previous working group consisted largely of government or business-affiliated representatives, including a member from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the president and chief executive of the Bishop Museum, and a member of the Waipio Taro Farmers Association.
It also limited the working group to one landowner in the valley who would be selected by the Board of Land and Natural Resources.
The latest version of the bill changed the working group to include, among others, non-commercial taro farmers, Waipio Valley kupuna, small land owners and a representative of the Hawaii County Council.
Changes came after the community at large became aware of the bill following an article published in the Tribune-Herald in March.
Valley residents and stakeholders submitted testimony expressing their concerns about the legislation and lack of community involvement as the bill progressed.
More than 100 people met Sunday with Rep. Mark Nakashima in Honokaa with questions about the intent and formation of the bill.
The Waipio community is also working to re-established the Waipio Valley Community Association to form a unified voice on the issue.
Some members of the community thought the bill should be deferred right away, while others wanted to review the pros and cons of the legislation since Nakashima said the Bishop Museum has discussed selling its parcels of land in the valley for a few years.
“There’s the issue of if they don’t sell the land to the state, it could be sold somewhere or to someone else. We’ve got to work together on this,” said Lanakila Mangauil at Sunday’s meeting.
The group will meet at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Waipio Valley Lookout.
Nakashima said Tuesday he voted in favor of the bill in order to keep it alive.
“During the meeting over the weekend, I informed the community members present that I would keep the SB 3063 alive into conference should an agreement be reached and a bill was needed,” he said. “I do not believe that a bill is necessary to begin to organize the community and prepare for the possible sale of the Bishop Museum lands in Waipio Valley; however, I did want to keep that option available.
“My House colleagues joined me in voting SB 3063 into conference, and I trust that they will follow my lead should I need to ask them to not approve forward the bill at a later date.”
The bill heads to the Senate next for review.
Either the Senate will agree with the amendments made by the House or disagree and go into conference the week of April 24.
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