S.R. NO.













URGING THE COUNTIES TO EXPAND KULEANA PROPERTY TAX RELIEF TO family members that have continuous ownership of ancestral lands.



     WHEREAS, the health and the well-being of native Hawaiians are intrinsically tied to the aina (land) and the "value" placed on these lands is immeasurable, representing a lasting relationship between native Hawaiians, their ancestors, and their people; and


     WHEREAS, over the generations, native Hawaiian families have continued to malama aina (care for the land) and are determined to persevere, develop, and transmit to the future generations, their ancestral lands, so that their descendants can carry on the legacy; and


     WHEREAS, following the Mahele of 1848, several thousand native tenants, or makaainana (common people), pursuant to the Kuleana Act of 1850, filed for and were granted title to lands they occupied and improved.  Although these lands were, by law, "subject to the rights of native tenants" there were, initially, no formal protections in place to guard these rights and nothing to stop the konohiki (chiefs) or the government from selling lands occupied by makaainana; and


     WHEREAS, in response to the concerns over the rights of native tenants, the Kuleana Act of August 6, 1850, and the amendment of July 11, 1851, authorized the Kingdom of Hawaii to confirm several resolutions of the Monarch and Privy Council that granted to the makaainana grant fee-simple title to all native tenants for their cultivated lands and house lots, often referred to as "kuleana lands"; and


     WHEREAS, since 1855, many kuleana parcels have been lost due to a myriad of reasons, including the lack of understanding of the recently imposed foreign legal and judicial system, introduction and expansion of large-scale ranching and plantation operations, the decline of taro cultivation due to the abandonment of large irrigation systems that had been maintained by the community, the acquisition of parcels through adverse possession or quiet title actions, and the seizing of parcels as payments for debts and taxes; and


     WHEREAS, today, very few native Hawaiian families live on their ancestral kuleana lands; and


     WHEREAS, the rapid escalation of land values in the recent years have resulted in further disenfranchisement, foreclosure, and emotional and financial struggles for native Hawaiian families that are trying to keep kuleana lands in their families; and


     WHEREAS, the inability of native Hawaiian families to pay for increasing property taxes as property taxes exponentially increase ultimately contributes to the continual loss of these historical and traditional family lands and possible houselessness; and


     WHEREAS, the City and County of Honolulu, County of Hawaii, County of Kauai, and County of Maui have enacted ordinances providing for a permanent reduction in the property tax rate for current owners of kuleana lands who are lineal descendants of the original owners.  Applicants and landowners qualify for the property tax reduction if they demonstrate that they are lineal descendants of an original kuleana owner and that at least part of the property they currently own is comprised of kuleana land acquired by the original awardee; and


     WHEREAS, these property tax exemptions have resulted in qualified owners of kuleana lands paying a minimal property tax, resulting in enhanced protection of these historic lands and tax relief to the owners; and


     WHEREAS, the fiscal impact of kuleana land property tax exemptions on county revenues has been minimal as relatively few parcels qualify for an exemption; now, therefore,


     BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the Thirty-first Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2021, that the historical, cultural, and ancestral importance of kuleana lands to native Hawaiian families is encouraged and the counties are urged to expand kuleana property tax relief to families with continuous ownership of kuleana lands; and


     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Resolution be transmitted to the Governor; Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs; and mayors and councilmembers of the City and County of Honolulu, County of Hawaii, County of Kauai, and County of Maui.









Report Title: 

Kuelana Property Tax Relief; Continuous Ownership