Maunakea stewardship restructure plan OK’d

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously approved a new internal management structure for governance of lands on Maunakea.

The plan consolidates authority over UH’s various Maunakea governing bodies to a handful of UH administrative positions, particularly the UH-Hilo chancellor and the newly created position “director of stewardship programs.”


UH-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin said the plan is an improvement from the current management structure, which she said is needlessly complex and provides no single point of accountability.

“When I first started here a year ago and I saw (the current structure), I was lost for words,” Irwin said.

As it is now, the UH-Hilo chancellor has authority over the Office of Maunakea Management, the Maunakea Ranger Program and their various advisory bodies. Meanwhile, Maunakea Support Services is ultimately governed by the UH-Manoa chancellor, as well as a Support Services Oversight Committee. Both chancellors report to the UH president, who in turn reports to the Board of Regents.

The new plan creates a Center for Maunakea Stewardship which governs all of the university’s Maunakea organizations and answers directly to the UH-Hilo chancellor. The director of stewardship programs governs all Maunakea stewardship programs and facilities, which are folded into the purview of Maunakea Support Services.

According to the draft of the plan presented during Thursday’s Board of Regents meeting, the current OMKM director position will be renamed to create the director of stewardship programs position.

The OMKM’s Maunakea Management Board is among a list of advisory groups to be consulted by the executive director of the Center for Maunakea Stewardship.

This structure, Irwin said, will better clarify UH’s chain of command to the public, improve the university’s transparency and accountability and help repair public trust in the university.

“While this restructuring provides for improved coordination between our management functions, the real opportunity here is that it moves us further toward an ethic of stewardship,” read a statement by Greg Chun, UH executive director of Maunakea Stewardship. “Maunakea is a unique and special place that has been entrusted to our care, and is valued by a diverse community in diverse ways. … Bringing our management responsibilities under a centralized organization supports building this ethic throughout the organization.”

The plan was proposed in accordance with a board resolution passed last year, which required the regents to consider such a reorganization in order to strengthen the university’s stewardship.

Members of the public submitted hundreds of pages of testimony about the restructuring, most of which was in opposition.

One form letter, submitted by dozens of people — including leaders of the 2019 Thirty Meter Telescope protests — argued that the plan does nothing to improve communication with communities outside the UH system, and criticized the inclusion of the Maunakea Observatories and the Institute for Astronomy within the plan, arguing that their inclusion represented a conflict of interest.

“Are you the regulator, the promoter or the end-user?” the letter asked. “It is the classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse.”

However, the regents responded favorably to the plan.


“I firmly believe we’ll be in a better position to be stewards of Maunakea under this plan,” said Regent Alapaki Nahale-a.

Email Michael Brestovansky at

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