2nd round of hearings set for revised Maunakea rules

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo The clouds part Jan. 12, 2017, showing a snow-capped Mauna Kea from Alae Cemetery in Hilo.

Members of the public will have a second chance to weigh in the University of Hawaii’s proposed Maunakea administrative rules during a series of hearings next month.

Four hearings are slated from June 3-7 throughout the state, with two hearings on the Big Island taking place June 4 in Hilo and June 5 in Waikoloa.

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These hearings are the second round of hearings after a series of public hearings in September last year. The feedback generated from those hearings informed the current revised draft of the proposed rules that will be discussed in June.

UH spokesperson Dan Meisenzahl said he thinks the university already received somewhere between 300 and 500 written and oral comments regarding the administrative rules since the outreach process began, and the new hearings likely will generate hundreds more.

“For what it’s worth, everybody who’s ever submitted testimony about this has been contacted about the upcoming hearings,” Meisenzahl said, emphasizing that testimony is serving to help alter UH’s approach.

The rules were contentious at last year’s hearings, with all testifiers in Hilo condemning the rules for appearing to be discriminatory toward Hawaiian cultural practices.

Meisenzahl said he felt the university failed to properly explain the purpose of the rules last time and has therefore added language to assuage fears of potential discrimination.

Among the changes made to the current draft of the rules include an amendment to a section governing the use of audio devices and noise. The section was previously thought to potentially restrict religious chanting or singing; the changes clarify that the section only governs such noise that impacts the mountain’s resources.

Testifiers also were concerned about requirements that permits would be necessary for religious groups or assemblies, but the current draft removed “group use” and “permits for public meetings or assemblies” from its language, although it would require group members to complete a registration form.

Depending on the feedback during this hearing process, Meisenzahl said additional amendments to the rules might necessitate a third series of hearings before the rules are finalized. Even if more hearings are not necessary, he said there will be another opportunity for the public to comment on the rules during the university’s final approval hearing.

When the rules are finally approved by the Board of Regents, Meisenzahl said they will go before the governor. Depending on how quickly the entire process goes, the rules could go into effect this year.

The hearing in Hilo will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. June 4 at Waiakea Elementary School. The Waikoloa hearing will take place at the same hours on June 5 at Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School.

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Written testimony can be submitted until June 7 by mail to the UH System Government Relations Office, by email to UHHAR@hawaii.edu or through the UH website at hawaii.edu/govrel/uhhar-testimony.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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