It's been more than three and a half months since the last meeting of the Oahu Island Burial Council, and frustration is growing.
"It's almost impossible to imagine the chaos that would ensue if we're not able to get up and running soon," said Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, the OIBC chairwoman.
At issue is an opinion from the state attorney general that prevents the Burial Council from conducting its monthly meetings until the proper ratio of regional representatives to large landowners has been met. The last time the OIBC met was on Jan. 11.
Under state law, the Oahu Island Burial Council can maintain nine to 15 members. The ratio of regional reps, or moku reps, to large landowners must be 3-1, or not less than 2-1.
Currently, there are six district representatives and two large landowners on the Council, which would fulfill the required percentage. However, the total number of members does not meet the mandated quota.
"Right now, we only have two large landowners onboard, and we need one more," said Wong-Kalu.
Because large landowners are required to own at least 100 acres, the number of qualified candidates is small.
"Therefore," said Wong-Kalu, "it limits us to who is going to be in the selection pool."
The OIBC and four other burial councils on the neighbor islands are tasked with protecting native Hawaiian burials whenever developers or construction crews come across a set of remains. The failure to meet means the Oahu council has had to put important agenda items on the backburner.
"We are working with the Office of the Attorney General to address the ratio issue," said Puaalaokalani Aiu, administrator for the State Historic Preservation Division, which oversees all of the state's burial councils. "We are also working to ensure that the Oahu Island Burial Council meets the minimum number of nine people."
Of particular concern to Wong-Kalu is the ongoing construction of the Honolulu rail project. Although construction of the elevated system won't reach Honolulu and Kakaako until 2016, archeological survey work in the area has been ongoing, as crews dig test trenches in search of native Hawaiian burials, or iwi kupuna.
"The rail project slated for Honolulu is one of the most crucial projects that this town will ever see," said Wong-Kalu. "If we are not up and running and if they run into iwi kupuna, we're going to be in a big fix."
To date, archeological surveyors have not discovered native Hawaiian remains among test trenches, but that could change due to the history of the area.
Concerned native Hawaiians hope state lawmakers will provide a legislative fix that allows the OIBC and other burial councils to meet on a regular basis.
"Try to work with what's already in place as far as procedures, and try to work around it," said Thomas Shirai, who served as a regional representative on the OIBC from 2000 to 2004.
The governor is allowed to appoint members to any burial council when the state Senate is not in session, but so far, no large landowner has stepped forward to serve on the OIBC.
"We'd like to change that to say that regardless of which large landowners and how many we have, we'd still have quorum as long as we have the moku reps," said Wong-Kalu.