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Maunakea Working Group Releases Draft Report

December 17, 2021, 2:06 PM HST
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The Hawaiʻi House of Representatives’ Mauna Kea Working Group released its draft report regarding future management of the mauna and is available for review and public comment.

On Friday, Dec. 17, Working Group Chair Rep. Mark M. Nakashima (District 1 – Hāmākua, North Hilo, South Hilo), told reporters he doesn’t have specific legislation to present for the upcoming legislative session, however, he is looking at the agreements established in the report and seeing how to make a proposed governing entity for the mountain a reality.

The report is currently online here till early January. A final version will be introduced to the legislature in the upcoming 2022 session. It will reflect the recommendations made on the document. Comments can be submitted by email to [email protected] by 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

The draft report looks at establishing a governing entity responsible for managing state-owned lands above the 6,500-foot elevation line, including Pu‘u Huluhulu to the summit of Maunakea in an effort to care for the mauna through an integrated, whole-systems approach. Additionally, for lands outside of its jurisdiction, the governing entity shall enter into cooperative management agreements with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, County of Hawai‘i and private landowners whose lands are within the jurisdiction area.

“What we’re looking at is a jurisdiction beyond the scientific reserve,” Nakashima told reporters Friday.

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Additionally, the report indicates it is not the intent of the Working Group to limit Native Hawaiian rights or cultural access to Maunakea.

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“It is the hope of the Working Group that the new plan for Mauna a Wākea, as outlined in this report, will allow for the proper management of this spiritual, cultural, and environmentally sensitive wahi pana,” the report states.

According to the report, the governing entity shall develop a framework to limit astronomy development on the mauna. Limitations may include limits on the number of astronomy facilities or an astronomy facility footprint limitation.

“Provided that in establishing a framework to control astronomy development on the mauna, the governing entity shall establish a plan to return the mauna above 9,200 feet elevation to its natural state,” the report states.

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The Working Group is expected to submit its final report of findings and recommendations to the
state legislature by Dec. 31, 2021.

“I want to thank the members of the Working Group who dedicated countless hours since convening in July 2021. We learned from each other and other stakeholders and worked together diligently to develop the recommendations presented in the report. I look forward to discussing this matter with the community through the 2022 Legislature as we adopt implementing legislation,” said Nakashima.

The Working Group convened in July and has been meeting throughout the year to develop recommendations for the governance and management structure for Maunakea. Fifteen people were selected for the group. The group was tasked to engage with all stakeholders, particularly the Native Hawaiian community.

“I’m just happy at this time that we’re allowed to have input on what goes on on the mountain so we included a lot of cultural aspects in the report,” said working group member Dr. Pualani Kanakaʻole Kanahele.

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.

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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