State senators introduced this session land exchange legislation that would help protect agricultural and conservation lands, boost the agricultural industry and put the appropriate entities in the proper places to grow a better Hawai‘i. The measure is supported by eighteen lawmakers in the Hawai‘i State Senate, including the bill’s main sponsor Senator Donovan Dela Cruz (D- Mililani Mauka, Waipi‘o Acres, Wheeler, Wahiawā, Whitmore Village, and portion of Poamoho).
The measure, Senate Bill 3065, Relating to Land Exchange, would allow the Department of Land and Natural Resources to exchange state-owned parcels in Kapolei for 20,000 acres of agricultural and conservation lands in Central O‘ahu. The lands, currently owned by the Castle & Cooke, surround the 1,207 acres of arable land purchased by the state for $13 million in 2012.
The land acquisition was part of a detailed plan for the future of Hawai‘i known as the Whitmore Project, an initiative to revitalize Hawai‘i’s local agriculture industry by bringing farmers and the state together to increase local food production, create jobs, engage in partnerships, and provide affordable housing.
Castle & Cooke has listed the land for sale at $175,000,000 and has also been supportive of the idea of a land exchange. The State currently owns land near areas where transit-oriented development is in the works.
“A land exchange with Castle & Cooke makes real sense here,” said Sen. Dela Cruz, “We have to look at all our options and think outside the box to help diversify Hawai‘i’s ag industry and preserve our lands. The state would spend little to no taxpayer money, and the exchange would allow for the appropriate entity to oversee smart development around transit plans and put the State in a place where it can provide opportunities for farmers and preserve lands.”
“Wahiawā can be an ag industrial hub,” he added. “These lands are up for sale and anything can happen to them. Do we want to see them parceled out and developed or do we want to see them as part of a plan that supports agriculture and our farmers?”