What is the Public Trust Doctrine?
In 1978, Hawai‘i’s people elevated resource preservation to a constitutional mandate by adding specific provisions protecting Hawai‘i’s natural resources and indigenous culture.
Article XI, § 1 of Hawai‘i’s Constitution provides that “all public natural resources are held in trust by the State for the benefit of the people.” Article XI, § 7 of Hawai‘i’s Constitution makes specific reference to water, including the directive “to protect, control, and regulate the use of Hawai‘i’s water resources for the benefit of its people.”
These Constitutional provisions were affirmed in the landmark case, In re Waiähole Combined Contested Case Hearing (“Waiähole I”): “article XI, section 1 and article XI, section 7 adopt the public trust doctrine as a fundamental principle of constitutional law in Hawai‘i.” In re Waiähole Combined Contested Case Hearing (“Waiähole I”), 94 Hawai‘i 97, 132, 9 P.3d 409, 444 (2000).
Learn More About the Public Trust Doctrine:
Download this excellent primer, called "Ola I Ka Wai" by D. Kapua Sproat,
Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law William S. Richardson School of Law
University of Hawai‘i at Manoa