Working Together for a Common Goal

With a regulatory process that can take years, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has partnered with other ali'i trusts, such as Kamehameha Schools to advance its mission.
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DHHL’s land trust consists of over 200,000 acres on Hawai‘i, Maui, Moloka‘i, La-na‘i, O‘ahu and Kaua‘i. | Photo: courtesy of Kamehameha Schools

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is tasked with developing and providing lands for the benefit of Native Hawaiians, but there’s a lengthy regulation process that must be followed. The ability to collaborate with other ali‘i trusts, such as Kamehameha Schools, has allowed DHHL to look outside of the government process for solutions.

The standard development process for homestead lots takes about six to eight years since funding is allotted annually by the Legislature. This means funding can be approved for one phase then it must go back to the Legislature to get approval for the next phase.

“It’s a real challenge because we might get design planning and then we have to wait two to three years before we get construction funding,” says Tyler Iokepa Gomes, DHHL deputy chair. “That’s one of the challenges of being funded by the Legislature is that it depends on the year. It depends on who is the chair of the finance committee. It depends on who’s the chair of capital improvement projects.”

“The ability to align on that shared goal of community improvement is really where we’re able to leverage the greatest successes.”

– Tyler Iokepa Gomes, DHHL Deputy Chair

Hawai‘i’s ali‘i created a number of different trusts to address specific social needs. The Bernice Pauahi Bishop trust is devoted to education, and Prince Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole was instrumental in creating DHHL’s land trust. In areas where their missions overlap, a partnership has formed.

“All of these ali‘i left behind what they had to develop a future for their people in a time that was incredibly uncertain about the future for Native Hawaiians,” says Gomes. “Their vision is something that unites all of our organizations, and DHHL is lucky to have a partnership with Kamehameha Schools and fulfilling two ali‘i trust visions in a modern world that I think our founders could not have envisioned or anticipated.”

The partnership is an opportunity for DHHL to look at how Kamehameha Schools’ resources, outreach and community influence can be utilized to support both visions. It’s a creative way to bring more support to beneficiaries.

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Photo: courtesy of Kamehameha Schools

Once lots are ready for homestead use, DHHL offers diverse options, including residential, agricultural, and pastoral lots. Residential awards can range from improved lots with a new home; vacant lots with the infrastructure in place; or minimally improved vacant lots.

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Photo: courtesy of Kamehameha Schools

“A new one that we’re just kicking off is called subsistence agricultural lots,” Gomes says. “It’s a slightly smaller, slightly more economical opportunity for household famers versus people who are running a full farming operation.” The first of these lots should be available in the next two to three years.

“There’s a lot of joy and tears and relief from families that have been waiting,” he says, “but it takes a long time to get there.”


This special project is commissioned by Kamehameha Schools through 2022 to highlight the workforce investments being made in communities around Hawaiʻi.


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Categories: Community Resiliency, Partner Content