Nearly three weeks after the state’s Board of Land and Natural Resources cited "imminent peril to the public health or natural resources" before passing an emergency rule limiting access to Mauna Kea, no enforcement action has taken place on the mountain.
Officials said the rule was needed to assert control and restore safety to the mountain following months of protest over the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope project, but there hasn't been a single arrest or citation for violating the emergency rule -- even though protesters have remained in place on Mauna Kea.
A week after Governor David Ige signed the rule into effect on July 14, signs informing the public were posted on along the Mauna Kea summit access road. Days later on Thursday, July 23, DLNR Conservation and Resource Enforcement officers started distributing what officials are calling educational handouts.
Cell-phone video taken by protesters, who say they’re standing in protection of the mountain as a sacred Native Hawaiian place, captured the first exchange.
"We're here just to serve you these papers, okay? And basically what you need to do is just to read them and understand that this is the emergency proclamation that went through,” a DOCARE officer explained.
DLNR officers have been back five times since then, but no citations or arrests have been made.
"I'm just here to serve -- give them the same paperwork that was given the day before -- coming from the Department of Land and Natural Resources. That's all I'm doing. That's my purpose here,” the same officer is seen explaining on camera three days later.
"Today was our fourth day getting served with these papers. We're not leaving. Don't worry,” one protester said in a video posted to the Na’au News Now Facebook page.
State officials say their approach is designed to give protesters time to understand the emergency rule, which prohibits camping on the mountain and restricts access at night between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. to anyone not traveling in a vehicle within 1 mile of the summit road at any time.
"Really our attitude is -- the state government from the governor on down -- wants to be very diligent and deliberate about safety on Mauna Kea,” said Department of Land and Natural Resources Communications Manager Dan Dennison. “We just don't want to rush into anything."
But protesters, who say they're standing in protection of Mauna Kea as a sacred Native Hawaiian place, believe the lack of enforcement indicates the 120-day emergency rule is unwarranted.
“I guess I'm kind of dumbfounded by this approach because they passed these emergency rules and there really was no emergency and they've really confirmed that in how they've dealt with this situation,” said Lakea Trask, an Aloha ‘Aina advocate.
State officials say they can't reveal their enforcement strategies and won't disclose when they'll start doing more than serving notices.
“Governor Ige's philosophy from the very beginning of this issue and he stated very often that in Hawaii we're a patient people and that's the way he's encouraging everyone in the Executive Branch of government to operate,” explained Dennison.
In the meantime, protesters say they’re not leaving or taking their large tent down.
“We've maintained that we are not camping. We are in ceremonial vigil as we have for the past 126 days now,” said Trask.