PLDC Opens the Door to Unchecked Big Development

Posted by Lauren Muneoka at Oct 29, 2011 08:05 PM |
Our fall intern Alice Terry reads between the lines and explains what the broader impacts of the PLDC would mean for Hawai'i.

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Here’s a blog by our intern, Alice Terry:

Despite questions of legality and Civil Beat’s proclamation last week that the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) may be “grinding to a halt” in the near future, the corporate arm of DLNR faced with developing public lands appears to just be getting started.

There are still major concerns among cultural, labor and environmental organizations and citizens alike about the sweeping, vague, and unchecked powers of the Corporation. And with good reason – there are numerous examples of failed Public-Private Partnerships throughout the mainland and other countries as budgets are being cut and state workers are looking to outside donors to subsidize public projects (see the two links below for examples ). But the major criticism of PPP’s remains that they saddle unnecessary risk onto taxpayers while protecting the interests of big developers, namely their bottom line. By handing over public lands to major, often transnational or international corporations, we will essentially be giving control of the `aina to for-profit companies with no long-term interests in Hawai`i and no reason to conserve the character of our islands.

There is nothing in the bill to mitigate against corporate greed. In fact, the powers transferred to the PLDC take away our most basic protections—no-brainers like following building codes and using licensed contractors so that the projects don’t topple over, are done away with! As Attorney General Linda Chow clarified in a memo last week to Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, “PLDC projects do not have to follow any of the enumerated laws that pertain to special improvement district assessments or requirements.” That effectively makes the PLDC the largest loophole ever, rendering every existing law and requirement useless. If we have to fight tooth and nail to get already-established laws enforced, what will be the fate of more ambiguous areas like rural, conservation and ceded lands? In the face of “economic hardship,” our government is apparently willing and able to throw out the laws that form the basis of our society in order to make a quick buck.

While developers move in to exploit public lands for profit, the public is largely left out of the process—rendering the whole idea of a “partnership” totally inaccurate. And a lack of transparency has been rampant in the PLDC process since its formation – whether by failing to delineate the exact projects they hope to undertake, or ignoring the state’s meager sunshine law that was put into place to promote public engagement with the decision-making process.

Already we’re seeing plans for a massive high-rise condo at Kaka`ako that will tower 50% above the state’s tallest building, setting a precedent for further expansion upwards. Although not technically a project of the PLDC, this public-private partnership mirrors the methods that will be used by the Corporation and foreshadows the frenzy of development that is waiting to be unleashed at the expense of established laws and regulations, long-term community planning, and the protection of our environment and natural resources. There is also concern over how the bill’s passage will affect Hawai`i in accordance with the meeting of APEC later this month.

One thing’s for sure, those at the top will benefit from this circus act—while taxpayers will pay for the haphazard, misguided development of the `aina.

Read more about it:

From Civil Beat: http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2011/10/24/13421-ag-dlnr-back-pedal-on-problems-with-land-development-corp/

From Honolulu Weekly: http://honoluluweekly.com/feature/2011/10/no-mans-land/

From the Hawaii Tribune Herald: http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/sections/news/local-news/inventory-public-lands-needed-dela-cruz-says.html

From ʻImi Pono: http://statehoodhawaii.org/2011/06/28/dlnr_plop/

Some international examples of failed Private Public Partnerships: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10575753 and http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/open-secrets/2005/10/30/1130607152241.html

From the state on why we have zoning regulations in the first place: http://luc.state.hi.us/about.htm#HISTORY

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Alice Terry is a senior at UH Manoa, studying Anthropology and came to KAHEA via Dr. John Cuisak’s Environmental Practicum course. Alice became interested in the interaction of culture and environmental health came during a 9-week intensive language program in Bahasa Indonesia.

There, much like in Hawai`i, local people are concerned by the environmental and cultural impacts tourism has on their home.

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