HONOLULU - Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a bill Monday that repeals the Public Land Development Corp., satisfying persistent public outcry over the land agency, which has been overwhelmingly criticized for its broad power to develop state land.
The governor signed the repeal via email at 4:50 p.m. and announced the land agency's repeal with a two-sentence statement.
"As with any new law, public understanding and support are essential," he said. "In the case of the PLDC, best intentions and the potential for public good could not be reconciled with public concerns."
Abercrombie didn't hold a ceremony for the signing, in sharp contrast to earlier in the day when he publicly signed another bill requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraception to female victims of sexual assault.
The state created the land agency in 2011 to raise revenue by developing state lands through private-public partnerships. Advocates hailed the organization as a way to raise needed state funds and make use of underutilized land.
But county leaders and environmental advocates denounced the agency for its exemptions to existing county zoning and permitting rules.
Advocates of the agency's repeal laughed with relief and joy at hearing the news.
"I can actually say 'Amen!' " said Mahina Martin, a grass-roots organizer from Maui who founded PLDC Watch, an organization dedicated to getting rid of the agency.
Martin says she will now most likely disband the organization, which was created to push for the PLDC's repeal.
She says the victory shows how effective the people of Hawaii can be when they band together.
"It's a clear win for the public," she said. "It's a larger win for the Neighbor Islands," she added, noting that most of the land that could have been developed was in the neighbor islands.
Donna Wong, executive director of Hawaii's Thousand Friends, an organization dedicated to responsible water and land use, also said the repeal is a testament to the strength of public opinion.
"We're glad to see that the people came together and made their voices heard," Wong said.
But she said the fight isn't over yet. The Legislature is considering other bills that also intend to permit public land development.
"Clones of PLDC are still lingering around," she said.