Facebook founder and tech magnate Mark Zuckerberg is essentially trying to force local residents in Hawaii to sell off parcels of property through legal proceedings, so that he can continue developing a lavish 700-acre estate on the island of Kauai.
“This is the face of neocolonialism,” said Kapua Sproat, a law professor at the University of Hawaii, according to The Guardian. “Even though a forced sale may not physically displace people, it’s the last nail in the coffin of separating us from the land,” Sproat, a resident of Kauai, continued.
Zuckerberg vehemently denies any wrongdoing, saying on his social media profile that there are “some misleading stories” about his “plans in Hawaii.”
He says that he has been working with the majority owners of each property, while also ensuring that smaller partial owners are still properly compensated.
And this is no easy feat, according to Zuckerberg, because “in Hawaii … it gets more complicated,” since small parcels of land were granted to families in the mid 1800’s. That land is now “split among hundreds of descendants,” which means that not only are official records scarce, but some descendants only “own 1/4% or 1% of a property” without even knowing, says Zuckerberg.
The Facebook CEO is conducting “quiet title action” in order to find all of the several partial owners and pay them what they are owed. (RELATED: Zuckerberg HACKED, Password Literally Consisted Of Two Letters)
“His current actions show that he is trying to do the right thing,” said Matt Goodale, a relative neighbor of Zuckerberg’s who owns 10 acres of property nearby, according to The Guardian. Goodale says Zuckerberg’s large estate is more palatable than the likely alternative of an 80-home development.
Makaala Kaaumoana, the executive director of an environmental group based in Kauai, somewhat agrees with Goodale.
“It is always a sad thing when families lose their land, for any reason, but at least this way they are compensated,” she said, reports The Guardian, referring to the fact that landowners may not know they own property in the first place.
Others, though, for the most part disagree.
“He’s kind of in a bubble. It would be much better if we could sit in a circle and talk. He talks about building bridges and not walls,” Hope Kallai, who lives on the same street as Zuckerberg, said according to The Guardian, adding that he did in fact build a six foot wall.
Hawaiian state representative Kaniela Ing said that she plans on introducing legislation to reform the quiet title process because she believes Zuckerberg is “using the same legal loopholes sugar barons in Hawaii exploited centuries ago.”
“For us, as Native Hawaiians, the land is an ancestor. It’s a grandparent,” she added. “You just don’t sell your grandmother,” Sproat explained.
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