Maunakea rules unveiled

The latest version of proposed administrative rules for Maunakea lands managed by the University of Hawaii were unveiled Thursday.

At the bottom of nearly 1,700 pages of meeting materials for the upcoming meeting of the UH Board of Regents is the most recent proposed draft of the administrative rules, which have been a point of contention for the Hawaiian community for more than a year.

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The rules, whose purpose is to “provide for the proper use, management and protection of cultural, natural, and scientific resources of the UH management areas,” have gone through two major revisions since being first revealed in late 2018. After two rounds of public hearings throughout the state, the Board of Regents will make a decision regarding this draft of the rules at a meeting on Wednesday in Hilo.

That Regents could decide to adopt the rules, change them and bring about another round of public hearings, or defer the decision.

The most recent changes to the rules, brought about by public hearings in June, are largely “non-substantial,” primarily concerning revised language for the sake of clarity. For example, the previous draft included language that prohibits activity that would “harass” visitors to the mountain; the newest draft removes the word “harass” because it is unnecessarily vague.

Other changes made since June include:

• Clarifications explaining that vehicles that are left unattended in closed areas, left in an open area for 48 hours, or causing a safety hazard can be impounded at the discretion of an authorized agent.

• A provision adding vaping and e-cigarettes to the rules’ prohibition on smoking.

• A revision to vague language that had stated that rule violators could be banned from the mountain for an indefinite period of time; the rules now read that the prohibition lasts “until the violation has been corrected.”

• The removal of a requirement that officers issue a verbal warning for nonharmful violations before issuing a citation; the American Civil Liberties Union noted that requirement was “confusing and self-contradictory.”

• A broader and less detailed definition of the word “camping,” which now only reads “the use of UH management areas (other than designated facilities at Halepohaku) for living accommodation purposes such as sleeping activities, or making preparations to sleep using any tents or shelter or other structure or vehicle for sleeping, between one hour after sunset and sunrise.” The simpler definition allows for visitors to use tents and similar equipment to facilitate activities such as stargazing.

• An extension of the deadline to submit an appeal of a violation from seven to 10 days, at the request of the ACLU.

• Removal of “overly broad” language that required certain groups applying for a group use registration to provide proof of “indemnification of the university.” The latest draft removes that requirement entirely.

The rest of the draft is identical to the version of the rules presented at the June hearings.

The proposed rules have been contentious among residents for their apparent power to impede Hawaiian cultural practices and unfettered access to the summit. Both rounds of public hearings attracted nearly universally negative testimony, with many testifiers going beyond the text of the rules to condemn the university’s management of the land.

Several substantial changes were made following the overwhelmingly negative reaction at the first set of hearings in 2018, including the outright removal of a section that appeared to set regulations on Hawaiian cultural practices, revisions to a noise prohibition to ensure that chanting and singing would remain legal, and the naming of UH President David Lassner as the sole person implementing the rules, instead of the previous language referencing an ambiguous “president’s designee.”

Despite these changes, testimony at the subsequent public hearings in June was still extremely negative.

Andre Perez, a leader among the ongoing protests at the Maunakea Access Road against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, said that, even with the changes, the rules seem distinctly slanted against Native Hawaiians.

“It’s very vague regarding traditional customary practices and rights,” Perez told the Tribune-Herald on Thursday. “It feels like it’s putting the onus on Hawaiians to have to prove their rights.”

Perez also said that language prohibiting the use of transmission devices north of Halepohaku and the use of drones seem tailored to specifically limit activism on the mountain.

The rules are only part of the scheduled agenda for Wednesday’s meeting. In addition, the Board of Regents’ Maunakea Governance Permitted Interaction Group, which was formed in August to identify issues relating to the university’s stewardship of the mountain, will present its findings Wednesday.

The Permitted Interaction Group will also present a resolution that, if passed, would begin the process of creating a more transparent Maunakea governance program and establish a timeline for the ongoing decommissioning process of the summit telescopes, among other things.

Finally, the Board of Regents also will rule on a request for about $900,000 to repair a building servicing the university’s 2.2-meter telescope. That building’s roof was damaged by heavy winds in February.

The Board of Regents meeting will take place at 9:45 a.m. on Wednesday at the UH-Hilo Performing Arts Center. Attendees will be allowed to testify in person or submit written testimony.

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The new draft of the rules, along with some 1,650 pages of ancillary material, can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yyrxbcld.

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

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