Big Island mayor floats plan to transfer Mauna Kea governance

Updated: Sep. 10, 2019 at 5:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii county Mayor Harry Kim is proposing a long-range Mauna Kea management plan that would transfer governance of the mountain away from the University of Hawaii.

He said a newly-created management authority would represent a broad cross section of organizations, from government to Native Hawaiian organizations.

UH, meanwhile, would no longer solely manage the mountain. Kim says he’s got buy-in from Governor David Ige, UH President David Lassner, members of the Board of Regents and Attorney General.

“It took me all this time to get commitments from the Governor, by the members of the Board of Regents, to talk to the people of OHA, Kamehameha Schools and people what is needed because these are not my ideas. I’m just collating the ideas,” he said.

Kim says also met with the Royal Order of Kamehameha, former Governor John Waihee and opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The proposal comes as a protest against the TMT continues at the base of Mauna Kea. The standoff has gone on for nearly 60 days. Kim said his proposal is not a deal or a compromise.

"The purpose of this presentation is beyond a yes or no of the TMT project," he said.

Kim told Hawaii News Now he met with Ige in Kona this past weekend and was assured by the governor there would be no imminent law enforcement action this week and possibly through the weekend. That's because Kim needs time to work on the plan.

“My goal is to work through the week and weekend if necessary to try to put something in writing and that I will take to the Governor and to others with what I have come up with for us to try to mitigate this,” he said.

Governor Ige would not comment on law enforcement operations at Mauna Kea, but said he wants a peaceful resolution.

"We certainly do not want to see anyone hurt as a result of the disagreement," said Ige.

Ige told Hawaii News Now any change in management would require legislative approval, but wouldn't give specifics of discussions with Kim.

"We should look at different ways to change the management. We have not gotten to the point of specifically who or how that would look like," he said.

UH says it's open to discussions.

"As has been stated before publicly, the university is open to discussions regarding the management of Maunakea but that these remain formative ideas and emerging discussions. It is a rapidly shifting environment and that is why the process Mayor Kim is leading is so important, in some ways more than the specifics of any plan," said UH in a statement.

Kim, a TMT supporter, says over the years he's spoken to TMT opponents and leaders of the movement at Mauna Kea about his plans but he acknowledges, the plan doesn't address the immediate issue of the blockage at the access road.

"Every single protector that I've talked to have said they understand, they appreciate, they support the vision that I wrote and read to them, but it did not deter them to say the telescope cannot be," he said.

On Friday, TMT opponents warned supporters that the Governor and Mayor would meet this past weekend to plan an attack on peaceful protectors. They said they are working on a response to Kim’s latest comments.

State Senator Kai Kahele pointed out the Senate passed a bill two years ago to establish a Mauna Kea Management Authority. The bill died in conference.

“Maybe if we had passed this two years ago, we wouldn’t have the situation we are having today,” Kahele wrote in an email.

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