Mayor Harry Kim says his Maunakea committee, tasked with proposing a new management model for the mountain, met for the first time Friday.
He said the meeting with the nine-member group lasted more than three hours, and the committee will next draft a charter to state its duties.
“They want a charter to define what their mission and responsibilities are,” said Kim, who drafted his own vision statement.
But he declined to identify the members because he said they don’t want to be named until the statement is finished, which could take a couple of weeks.
“Once that is done and they agree to it,” Kim said, referring to the charter, “then they are willing to put their names on it.”
He said each member is from Hawaii Island and has a “history of involvement, scholarly, professionally or personally, in regards to the Hawaiian culture.”
Regarding being identified now, he said the concern is that the focus will be on the Thirty Meter Telescope project, which some Native Hawaiians oppose.
“They all agree that the vision is not of just science,” Kim said. “This is a vision of Maunakea.”
As for his vision, Kim has said the mountain should be a monument of international importance, reflecting its scientific, cultural and environmental heritage.
The mountain, managed by the University of Hawaii because of its scientific significance, mostly is comprised of state land. Kim said the group will present a proposal for a new management structure to policymakers, who might be responsible for deciding its future.
UH has a master lease for the Maunakea Science Reserve through 2033, and is in the process of seeking a new lease.
Meetings on the proposal will take place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Monday at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands office in Waimea and Tuesday at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo.
The Legislature also is mulling management issues.
On Thursday, the state House of Representatives passed on first reading a bill creating a new Maunakea management authority. The bill, which has received hundreds of pages of opposing testimony, passed the Senate on Tuesday.
It will be heard next by the House Finance Committee.
Committee Chairwoman Rep. Sylvia Luke and Sen. Kai Kahele, one of the bill’s main sponsors, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
While a handful of people submitted testimony in favor of the bill, the measure has received a mountain of criticism from astronomers, state agencies and Hawaiian cultural practitioners alike.
Under the measure, a paid seven-member board appointed by the governor, which would include cultural experts, an astronomer and environmental expert, would run the authority. Four members would have to be from Hawaii Island. It also limits the number of telescopes.
Critics, depending on their perspective, say the bill is unnecessary because UH has the management expertise and that a new entity replacing UH-Hilo’s Office of Maunakea Management isn’t necessary to improve management. OMKM is overseen by a volunteer board whose members are from the island and approved by the UH Board of Regents.
“While I appreciate the intent of this bill to protect the cultural and natural resources of Maunakea, its specific motivation to create an entirely new management authority is misplaced and the bill, if implemented, would bring about disastrous consequences,” Thayne Currie, a Maunakea astronomer, said in written testimony.
He said he thinks OMKM excels at an “exceptionally difficult task” and that the bill would at best “create unnecessary and significant chaos” that would impede stewardship.
Kealoha Pisciotta, a longtime critic of UH, said she is against the bill because she thinks a proposal for a new management authority should come from the public.
Pisciotta, along with others challenging TMT in court, criticized Kahele in a statement for moving forward with the bill after they said they asked for that issue to be set aside during a meeting with him earlier this year.
“He is misrepresenting to the people that this is what we want,” she said.
Walter Ritte, a Hawaiian activist from Molokai, said in testimony that he supports it because a new management team would set a “new norm on how issues such as the TMT can and will be treated in the future so as to avoid such lose-lose conflicts.”
Kahele is hosting meetings around the state regarding the bill.
“Without question, Maunakea is a culturally revered and special place to many of Hawaii’s people and finding that critical balance, without continuing to divide our communities, is of utmost importance to me,” Kahele said in a press release. “What does not exist today is a vision for Maunakea and leadership to bring that vision to fruition.”
Meetings will be held from 6-8 p.m. March 20 at the Kanu O Ka ‘Aina Learning Center in Waimea; 7-9 p.m. March 21 at Keaukaha Elementary School cafeteria; and 6-8 p.m. April 2 at the West Hawaii Civic Center in Kailua-Kona.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.