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Saiki Appoints Members to Maunakea Working Group

May 12, 2021, 11:23 AM HST
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Mark M. Nakashima, Chair of the Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs Committee (District 1 – Hāmākua, North Hilo, South Hilo) has been appointed to serve as Chair over the Maunakea working group.

Fifteen people were also selected for the group, which is tasked with developing recommendations for a new governance and management structure for Maunakea that collaboratively engages with all stakeholders, particularly the Native Hawaiian community. A meeting date has not yet been set.

“As the Representative whose district includes Maunakea, my community is depending on this working group to fulfill our mission. I look forward (to) working with this esteemed group to explore options for a better future for Maunakea,” Nakashima said.

On March 4, 2021, the Hawaiʻi House of Representatives adopted House Resolution 33, Convening a Working Group to Develop Recommendations for a Governance and Management Structure for Maunakea.

“The House of Representatives created the Maunakea Working Group because the State of Hawaii has not appropriately managed cultural practices, resources and education at Maunakea,” said House Speaker Scott K. Saiki. “I hope that new governance and management structure will enable the state to do this. I am looking forward to the important work of this committee in the months ahead.”

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Since 1968, the University of Hawai‘i has overseen the care of the mountain, managing the Maunakea Astronomy Precinct and the Natural and Cultural Preservation Area.

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The master lease of the mountain is set to expire in 2033. In February, Saiki held a press conference stating his opposition to the University of Hawai‘i’s continued management of Maunakea, adding that he hopes UH will stop pursuing the renewal of the master lease.

The mountain and the telescopes built on its summit have been at the heart of controversy for the Hawaiian people for several years. In July 2019, hundreds ascended the mountain to halt the transport of construction equipment for the Thirty Meter Telescope up the access road.

Demonstrators called themselves Ku Kia‘i, protectors of Maunakea. The Kia‘i camped at the base of the road for several months, shutting down TMT as well as astronomy work. In December 2019, TMT put a halt on its construction indefinitely.

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Saiki solicited nominations from Native Hawaiian groups, organizations, and community organizations to select the seven Native Hawaiian members. From those nominations, a handful of Kia‘i were chosen and will have a voice in the working group.

The nominees selected for the group are Jocelyn Leialoha M. Doane, Lui Hokoana, Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele, Joshua Lanakila Manguil, Brialyn Onodera, Shane Palacat-Nelsen and Noe Noe Wong-Wilson.

Wilson told Big Island Now the working group is an opportunity for everyone to come to the table and to look for alternatives in management and better management of the mountain.

“I’m entering it in good faith,” Wilson said. “I’m cautiously optimistic and hopeful that it’s not just a show but that they will listen to the perspectives and opinions at the table.”

Wilson said the focus of the working group is to address the management of the mauna. Her hope is to identify a new entity for such an undertaking.

“I don’t have an opinion on what that entity looks like,” she added.

Three members from the House of Representatives will also be part of the working group: Speaker Saiki selected the following House members to serve on the working group: Rep. Ty J.K. Cullen (District 39 – Royal Kunia, Village Park, Waipahu, Makakilo, West Loch); Rep. Stacelynn K.M. Eli (District 29 – Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili); and Rep. David A. Tarnas, Chair of the Water & Land Committee (District 7 – North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala).

Four stakeholder organizations have appointed an individual to be part of the discussions as well. Sterling Wong, Chief Advocate of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, will represent the Office of Hawaiian Affairs; Robert K. Masuda, First Deputy, will represent the Board of Land and Natural Resources; Bonnie Irwin, Chancellor of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, will represent the University of Hawaiʻi’s Board of Regents; and Rich Matsuda, Chief External Relations Officer and interim Chief Operating Officer at the WM Keck Observatory, will represent the Maunakea Observatories.

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