Bill to strip UH as Mauna Kea’s sole manager moves forward, but not without changes
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Senate Committee on Higher Education passed a bill to strip the University of Hawaii as the sole manager of Mauna Kea, but it came with significant amendments.
After UH had warned a stewardship bill could lead to the death of astronomy and the Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea, Senate committee lawmakers approved it with major changes.
“I am not convinced that creating an authority from scratch to manage this multi-faceted entity will be able to achieve the goals envisioned by the House Working Group without financially overburdening the taxpayers as well as addressing the needs of the University of Hawaii’s astronomy program,” said State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education.
The measure would establish the Mauna A Wakea stewardship authority with 11 voting members including the DLNR, University of Hawaii, Hawaiian community and the observatories.
“I’m convinced that we need to move forward systematic change and do so in a manner that does not further divide our state,” said Kim. “The Senate draft is definitely a work in progress as there is no perfect bill and recommending a gradual, transition, transformation and change in a sustainable way that will need constant reviews.”
The bill would put the authority under UH Hilo for administrative issues instead of the UH president or regents.
Curiously, the stewardship of Mauna Kea is already under UH Hilo.
“I’d rather not see UH Hilo be in that position,” said Noe Noe Wong-Wilson. “I just don’t know that the university is the right place to care for the mountain in its entirety.”
Wong-Wilson was part of a Mauna Kea working group that came up with provisions of the bill. She says this still maintains her main goal.
“The most important piece to me is the fact that the intent of this legislation is to place the Mauna in the center, the focus. As opposed to placing astronomy in the focus,” said Wong-Wilson.
UH said it’s assessing the bill’s latest version.
Advocates for astronomy and the TMT on Mauna Kea said they think the changes are good, but they’re still not happy with the bill.
“I think we are moving in the right direction,” said Sam King, a Native Hawaiian advocate for astronomy on Mauna Kea. “But the process has been rushed. And I think if we really are going to do this, and strip UH management that they’ve been doing for decades, that we need to make a much more concerted effort to have a conversation about this.”
The measure now goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
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