About OP

History of Statewide Planning in Hawaii

Planning in Hawaii has a long and significant history. It can be traced to the late 1700’s when Kamehameha I decided to unite the Hawaiian islands. He assessed his resources, devised strategies, and waged a successful military campaign.

Concerned about the development of Hawaii after World War II, the territorial legislature mandated in 1945 the preparation of a master plan for the physical development of the territory. The plan addressed transportation, agriculture, parks, recreation, water supply development, flood control, land use, forest reservations, and other interests.

In 1961, Hawaii enacted the nation’s first land use law, and in 1979 the first state plan law. Hawaii is acknowledged nationally and internationally as a pioneer and leader in land use and state planning.

Significant milestones in Hawaii’s planning history include:

  • 1937 Territorial Planning Board
  • 1941 Territorial Planning Board expired
  • 1945 Territorial Planning Board
  • 1955 Economic Planning and Coordination Authority
  • 1959 Department of Planning and Research
  • 1963 Planning Division in the Department of Planning and Economic Development
  • 1975 Land Use Division established in the Department of Planning and Economic Development
  • 1987 Office of State Planning placed in the Office of the Governor
  • 1996 Office of Planning is administratively attached to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT)

For more, read “Islands in transition; a quarter century of planning and economic development in the State of Hawaii, 1960-1985,” published in 1986.

Statewide Planning Today

Under HRS §§ 225M-1 and 225M-2(b), the Office of Planning reports directly to the Governor on substantive issues and to the director of the DBEDT for “administrative purposes.”

The Office is comprised of professional planners and policy analysts led by the Director of Planning. The Office is divided into two divisions, the Land Use Division and the Planning Division. The Planning Division includes the Coastal Zone Management Program, Special Plans Branch, and the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Program.  The Office is partially funded by state general funds and program specific federal funds.

The Office’s state statutory authority is derived from the following statues:

HRS Chapter 205, Land Use Commission. The purpose of this law is  to “preserve, protect and encourage the development of the lands in the State for those uses to which they are best suited for the public welfare[.]” See L. 1961, c 187, § 1.  The Commission is an independent board of nine members, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the senate, who make quasi-judicial determinations about what lands in the State of Hawaii should be placed into one of the four state land use districts: urban, rural, agricultural, and conservation. The Office of Planning is required to appear in every case as a party to make recommendations based on the criteria for boundary designations (HRS § 205-17). The Office also comments on petitions for special use permits and important agricultural lands designations.

HRS Chapter 205A, Coastal Zone Management. The purpose of this law is  to  “provide for the effective management, beneficial use, protection, and development of the coastal zone.”  See L. 1977, c 188, § 1.  The Office of Planning is the lead agency under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended. The Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program is funded through a cooperative agreement with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. Among other things, the CZM Program provides guidance and funding to counties to support their administration of the special management area permitting process, prepares and updates the Ocean Resources Management Plan, administers the Coastal Estuarine and Land Conservation Program, and evaluates federal actions for CZM Act consistency.

HRS Chapter 225M, State Planning. This statute spells out the core functions of the Office of Planning. The Office is charged by the legislature with eight specific activities: (1) state comprehensive planning and program coordination, (2) strategic planning, (3) planning coordination and cooperation, (4) statewide planning and geographic information system (GIS), (5) land use planning, (6) coastal and ocean policy management, (7) regional planning and studies, and (8) regional, national, and international planning.

HRS Chapter 226, Hawaii State Planning Act. The purpose of this law is “to improve the planning process in this State, to increase the effectiveness of government and private actions, to improve coordination among different agencies and levels of government, to provide for wise use of Hawaii’s resources and to guide the future development of the State.”  See HRS §226-1. Under the Act, the Office of Planning is charged with providing technical assistance in administering the Act (HRS § 226-53). The Hawaii State Planning Act was adopted in 1978 for the following purposes: (1) improve the planning process in the State, (2) increase the effectiveness of government and private actions, (3) improve coordination among different agencies and levels of government, (4) provide for wise use of Hawaii’s resources, and (5) guide the future development of the State. HRS Chapter 226 sets forth the Hawaii state plan, which (1) serves as a guide for the future long-range development of the State; (2) identifies the goals, objectives, policies, and priorities for the State; (3) provides a basis for determining priorities and allocating limited resources, such as public funds, services, human resources, land, energy, water, and other resources; (4) improves coordination of federal, state, and county plans, policies, programs, projects, and regulatory activities; and (5) establishes a system for plan formulation and program coordination to provide for an integration of all major state, and county activities.