(BIVN) – A new Hawaiian Homes Commissioner to represent West Hawaii is going through the confirmation process before the State Senate.
Makai Freitas on Monday appeared before Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs.
Freitas was asked about his top priorities as a commissioner representing West Hawaii.
“Representing West Hawaii, Act 279 is top of the list,” Freitas said. “You know, we need to move. We have a bunch of money that we’re very, very fortunate and appreciative to be to have access to. If I want to narrow it down to my district, we have a lot of that money going to the La‘i‘ōpua area in Kona.”
“Kind of also tied into infrastructure or water issues that we have,” Freitas continued. “You can’t have development without water. Water is a major issue through Waimea Nui, Puʻukapu area, Kawaihae Homestead, and Kailapa as well as down La‘i‘ōpua in Kona.”
Eventually the discussion turned to commercial leases on Hawaiian Home Lands, and in particular the Prince Kuhio Plaza, which has been the subject of discussion in recent months, as the mall looks to extend its 39-acre lease for another 40 years.
“I’ve been harping on Prince Kūhio Mall on Hawaiʻi island,” commented Senator Kurt Favella. “One of my colleagues said that we don’t see any billion dollar Hawaiians that can take over that mall. I wasn’t looking for one billion dollar, I was looking one Hawaiian that had a vision that’s going to take back the lease and empower our people. Because right now, that will belong to us.”
“Our Hawaiians that is leasing in there, pay fair market value. And the person that leasing the land is not paying for a market value,” Sen. Favella said. “So I want you to kind of marinate this as you go forward. When the leases are coming up, I pray that (Department chair Kali Watson) does the right thing. Take back the lease. Use his mind that he knows how to do. And develop housing in combination with them all like how they do with Ala Moana. If they can do that for the millionaires, we can do that for our Hawaiians who need homes. Maybe they’re not going to own them, but they can rent them. Use them for kūpuna housing.”
“It’s actually a very turbulent topic,” said Freitas. “When I had the opportunity to sit down with the Panaʻewa and Keaukaha homes associations, that’s at the top of their list. To sit down and tell you have a 100% slam dunk plan on it, I don’t. Kali has, you know, in executive sessions, expressed a few things off the record to us. His vision for it. I understand the homes associations. I understand their frustration. It could be a revenue source. It could be a mechanism to to provide a constant revenue flow, which again, like I said, will be reinvested back into our communities. It could be looked at as potential housing projects. I think it’s a multitude of issues, and a multitude of possibilities. But the key component, I feel, in moving forward towards that, is beneficiary consultation. That’s the key component.”
Hawaii island state senator Tim Richards voiced his support for the nominee. The rest of the senate committee followed.
“Working on the greater North Hawaiʻi District 4 and the issues going on there,” Senator Richards said. “I have two big Hawaiian Home areas there: Waimea Nui and what they call Kailapa. And I have to say: Makai has jumped in head and foot and just dived into getting things handled. We’ve got a lot of things we have to face, and have to face together, and without question Makai has my support.”
The Freitas nomination will next go the full senate for a vote. If confirmed he will serve a term to end in June 30, 2025.