Proposed rules to manage Mauna Kea stir worry in the Native Hawaiian community

Mauna Kea gets snow, sure. But did you know it also has permafrost? (Image: UH News)
Mauna Kea gets snow, sure. But did you know it also has permafrost? (Image: UH News)
Published: Jun. 2, 2019 at 4:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii is asking for public feedback on its latest draft rules to improve management of Mauna Kea.

This is UH’s third draft of proposed rules since the process started in 2009. They say it’s to improve the stewardship of the mountain, reduce traffic, address serious abuses and protect traditional practices.

But as the managers of the mountain, UH took heat in light of a recent event where professional athletes from Europe filmed themselves skiing down the bare slopes with no snow.

The proposed rules are meant to prevent incidents like that from happening again, but Hawaiian activists say although the rules are needed, they fear it would criminalizing cultural activities.

“These rules are created specifically for the Kiai, or the protectors, to manage them and ultimately criminalize them. And that’s the concern here,” said Healani Sonoda-Pale of Ka Lahui Hawaii Political Action Committee.

UH rangers would have the authority to issue fines for commercial activity without a permit.

UH says it revised sections after the concerns were raised.

“Probably the biggest change was in a section that we had written that we had developed in partnership with OHA on traditional customary practices. That section was never intended and did not restrict traditional Hawaiian cultural practices, but it was interpreted that way,” said Greg Chun, Senior Advisor to UH on Mauna Kea.

Activists question the timing of the latest proposed rules as the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope prepares to start construction at an unknown date. UH says the Mauna Kea rules are separate from TMT.

If the rules are approved by the U-H regents, they go to the Governor for a final decision.

The public is being encouraged to attend four public meetings at the following dates and times:

• Monday, June 3, 2019, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Mānoa Elementary School, 3155 Mānoa Road, Honolulu

• Tuesday, June 4, 2019, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Waiākea Elementary School, 180 W. Puainako Street, Hilo

• Wednesday, June 5, 2019, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School, 68-1730 Hoʻoko Street, Waikoloa

• Friday, June 7, 2019, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Pōmaikaʻi Elementary School, 4650 S. Kamehameha Avenue, Kahului

Written comments are being accepted now until Friday, June 7. Comments can be submitted by email to

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