2 arrested amid ongoing dispute over ownership of Maui land slated for affordable housing

Native Hawaiians claim they are being kicked off their land, while a local nonprofit organization claims they are trespassing.
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 7:06 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 8:44 PM HST
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WAIEHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A land dispute in Waiehu escalated on Tuesday after two people were arrested for trespassing at a site being developed for affordable housing.

About noon Tuesday, MPD arrested a woman who was living on the Waiehu site and refused to leave.

Just two hours later, a second arrest occurred involving a family friend who also refused to leave the property.

The two people arrested claim they have kuleana rights to that land.

Maui Economic Opportunity — the nonprofit behind the arrest — says they’re trespassing.

MEO wants to build a 120-unit rental housing project for low-income Maui families on an 11-acre site off Kahekili Highway near Waiehu Beach Road.

Amid high rental costs and scarcity, MEO said low-income housing is critically needed.

“The high cost of housing is impacting Native Hawaiians, with The Associated Press reporting recently that many residents have moved to Las Vegas — out of necessity, not choice,” MEO said in a statement.

The nonprofit said they have a “clear chain of title dating back to King Lunalilo and has the right to exclude trespassers from the property to move this affordable housing project forward.”

However, the family said they have documentation that proves otherwise.

“They have a quitclaim deed. We have a Land Commission Award,” said Lala Johnson. “That supersedes the quitclaim deed.”

“Our family has an LCA — a Land Commission Award — that dates back much farther than that, with also maps, certified maps, that were done through the Bureau of Conveyances,” added Koa “Kojo” Johnson.

According to MEO, the trespassers were notified they are on the wrong site — based on a Land Commission Award number 3386.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs Kipuka website shows Land Commission Award 3386 being near the Waiehu shoreline.

MEO said they gave notices to vacate the property back in 2021 and then again in October 2022.

They said police assistance was used as a last resort because all other options have been exhausted to resolve the situation.

But the family says MEO is mistaken.

“If you claim that is your property, and we claim that is our property, then it’s not a trespassing issue,” " said Johnson. “It’s a land title issue.”

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