State leaders seek changes in management of Mauna Kea

Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 5:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Management of Mauna Kea is once again on the forefront after the leader of the state house called for changes Tuesday.

House Speaker Scott Saiki said he thinks the University of Hawaii should no longer be responsible for managing the mountain. He and others believe the university hasn’t done a good job engaging the community in stewardship of the mountain, along with failing to protect cultural practices, resources and education.

The Speaker said this is a long-standing issue that must be addressed.

“We just feel that it’s time for us to discuss creating a new governance system for Mauna Kea that is more respectful of cultural practices,” Rep. Scott Saiki said.

UH has held the master lease to manage Mauna Kea since 1968. That lease is set to expire in 2033, but the university is currently working to extend it. Saiki is among the state lawmakers who feel it shouldn’t be extended.

“The university, while they’ve done a good job with managing the resources, they have not really done well to address the management objectives related to protecting and engaging the community as well as protecting cultural resources,” Rep. David Tarnas, House committee on Water Land Chair, said.

The university acknowledged the challenges that comes with managing the mountain.

“I think the community engagement and communicating with the community is a challenge, for quite frankly, every land owner and every developer in Hawai’i because there is a plethora of issues that make land management, land ownership, land development very difficult. Then you have a layer on top of that, the sacredness of where we are talking about,” Greg Chun, Director or Maunakea Stewardship, said.

Native Hawaiians have long fought for land rights and protection atop the mountain which they consider sacred.

In March of 2015, protests on the mountain over the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope began following years of administrative efforts to get construction going. Dozens of protestors were arrested in an emotional showdown.

[From the HNN Archives: DLNR officers, TMT workers turn around due to protesters on Mauna Kea]

The House will be introducing a resolution this session to begin the process of establishing a new governance structure for Mauna Kea.

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