County Services On DHHL Lands

Posted on Oct 27, 2013 in Fact Sheets


The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) continues to dialogue with the counties as a means of clarifying the services provided to lessees in Hawaiian homestead communities.  To that end, it is our intent to maintain the positive working relationships we have forged with our colleagues from the various counties as a means of ensuring the availability of critical health and safety services that will preserve our beneficiaries’ quality of life.

The Hawaiian Homes Commission has the authority to determine land use on Hawaiian Home Lands.  To that end, the Commission has adopted Island Plans which designate land uses for all Hawaiian home lands for the next 20 years.  Island Plans have been adopted for Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, and Kauai.  The Oahu Island Plan is being developed now and we anticipate adoption by the end of 2013.  The Commission requires that any amendments to our Island Plan zoning designations be subject to a comprehensive planning review and input from our beneficiaries in the region.

These Island Plans provide a basis to coordinate our developments with County General Plans, Development Plans, and Sustainable Community Plans.  We have had a series of discussions with the Counties on how to plan, design, and construct communities and infrastructure which supports our mission to settle native Hawaiians and also supports State and County land use goals and objectives.  In most cases, the Hawaiian Homes Commission plans, designs, and finances its infrastructure at a level to meet County standards so that these facilities can be integrated into the Counties’ systems.

Homesteaders pay typical fees for use of County water, sewer, and road facilities.  After the seven-year exemption provided by the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA), homesteaders are subject to County ordinances for real property taxes. Non-homestead uses on Hawaiian home lands, such as commercial and industrial lessees, are subject to real property taxes and fees as well.  Projects on Hawaiian home lands are subject to typical health and safety requirements such as County building, plumbing, electrical, and grading permits and standards.

Like all state agencies that deal with land,  coordination between DHHL,  other  State agencies and Counties at the planning, design, and construction levels work relatively well in most cases and issues are resolved.  While most issues are resolved at the departmental staff level, other more complex issues require discussion at the Director or Executive level and in limited cases may require legislation to clarify roles and responsibilities.

We continue to work with all parties to clarify the role of the County on DHHL lands in the best interest of the beneficiaries we serve.

Do the services provided to Hawaiian Home Land communities differ from county to county?  Are residents uniformly served?

Yes, county services may differ slightly from county to county.  DHHL, however, strives to ensure that homesteaders are uniformly served.

The City and County of Honolulu stopped providing regular preventative sewer maintenance on DHHL lands eight years ago.  In addition, the City said that they do not respond to emergency calls from lessees on DHHL lands and that lessees are told to contact DHHL. Is this the situation for all counties?

No, but then again, the infrastructure for sewer is not the same.  Other than C&C of Honolulu, most DHHL projects are on septic sewer systems in rural areas. Homesteaders are required to maintain their own septic systems.

An exception is the Villages of Laiopua in Kona.  It is a county sewer system and the county has accepted maintenance of the system.

The Papakolea sewer system was built by the City and County of Honolulu in the 1940s and maintained from the beginning by the City.  Around the mid-2000s, the City suddenly halted all maintenance of the system.  The system has reached an age where major repairs and maintenance are required.  The system services both DHHL lots, as well as privately-owned properties in Makiki and Tantalus.  DHHL lessees pay the same sewer fees that other Honolulu residents pay.

The current DHHL administration is taking an active role in resolving the issue of responsibility for sewers and other infrastructure servicing Hawaiian home lands.  DHHL supported legislation in 2013 that would have clarified the maintenance responsibility for the sewers.   DHHL also supported the $5 million, 2012 legislative appropriation (that you referenced below).

The current DHHL administration also initiated ongoing discussions with the City regarding sewer issues and is working towards a resolution.  Until these issues are resolved, DHHL is doing everything it can to address any health and safety issues arising from this situation, including funding an engineering study of the Papakolea system and contracting for required repairs.

Does DHHL agree?  What is the agency’s perspective?

It is DHHL’s position that the counties are uniquely positioned to operate, improve, repair, and maintain sewer transmission lines and other sewerage facilities.

I will be pointing out in the story that lessees are paying real property tax (RPT), sewer and water charges to the City and County of Honolulu.

Regarding the City’s not providing sewer service; how does DHHL handle emergencies?  Do they hire a contractor?

Yes.  To protect the health and safety of our beneficiaries, DHHL has had no choice but to secure the services of a  private contractor to respond to critical emergencies regarding sewer systems located on Hawaiian Home Lands.  A private contractor is utilized because DHHL does not have the staff resources to respond to these calls.

Has DHHL been talking to the City about repair and maintenance of infrastructure, basic City services and enforcement?

The discussions are ongoing.

With regards to enforcement, county police have authority and jurisdiction to respond to criminal complaints on Hawaiian Home Lands.

Enforcement on Streets and Roadways: Act 153(10) – “Any provision of law notwithstanding, any county and its authorized personnel may impose and enforce traffic regulations and place appropriate traffic control devices and enforce … on public streets roads and highways whose ownership are in dispute between the State and county.”

In addition, State law makes the counties responsible for maintaining government roads that are not part of the DOT highway system, even if the roads are located on Hawaiian Home Lands.  See AG Opinion 86-16, Page 4.  The current DHHL administration is committed to working with the counties to resolve maintenance issues.

What is DHHL doing to service beneficiaries?

The DHHL steps in to provide basic services if the counties do not provide them.  In FY 2014, DHHL allocated 30% of its trust fund budget to maintenance and improvements in existing homesteads.  However, DHHL asserts that our beneficiaries should be provided all city and county services that are provided to all Hawaii residents.

During the 2012 Legislative Session $5 million was allocated for Papakolea sewer repair but the allocation did not make it into the final budget.  Was this a DHHL initiative?


Did DHHL support this appropriation?


Was there any more needed?


DHHL requested CIP funding from the Legislature for Papakolea sewer repairs.  It is made a DHHL top priority every year since the City and County of Honolulu no longer provided those services.  However, the $5 million originally appropriated in FY12 was subsequently deleted by the legislature in the following year.

In FY 2013, the Legislature appropriated $1M in design funds.  In the upcoming FY14 legislative session, DHHL will be seeking construction funds to repair 2 major sewer lines and for spot repairs in Papakolea.

Allocation of the $5 million was recognition on a Legislative level that there are problems with the sewer system in Papakolea. I will be reaching out to Papakolea homestead residents for their comments as well.

Are most if not all the streets in the homestead communities on Oahu city streets? Or are some still controlled by DHHL? In Papakolea, for instance, are those all city streets?

Yes.  Please see Act 153.