Maunakea Master Plan to be completed by late next year

An update to the University of Hawaii’s Maunakea Master Plan is expected to be completed by late 2021.

The master plan was established in 2000 to provide policy for UH to govern the Maunakea Science Reserve, but a long-awaited update to the plan will, among other things, provide a framework to reduce the number of astronomy sites at the mountain’s summit.

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During a Tuesday meeting of the board of UH’s Office of Maunakea Management, Jim Hayes, president of Honolulu consultancy firm Planning Solutions Inc., said the internal draft of the master plan is expected to be completed this month after consulting with UH stakeholders, and will be submitted for public comment in the spring of next year.

Using feedback from the public comment period, Hayes said the final updated master plan will be taken up by the UH Board of Regents in October 2021 for approval.

Among the revisions to the master plan will be a series of land use goals for each of the astronomy sites on the summit. While most of the sites will remain as they are now, Hayes said the master plan will include a process to reduce the number of active sites to nine by 2033 as a condition of the planned construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Hayes said the master plan is written under the assumption that construction of TMT will go ahead, but added that construction of the telescope is not contingent upon the plan. Because TMT was approved under the current master plan, changes to the plan will not impact the telescope’s construction.

Hayes also said some of the sites of telescopes that will be decommissioned in exchange for the construction of TMT could still be used for non-astronomical purposes, such as sunset viewing, parking or portable toilets.

Among the other issues the updated plan will address are an improved program for managing access to the summit, the implementation of more Hawaiian place names for features within the Maunakea Science Reserve and a feasibility study into setting aside a place on the summit for use by cultural practitioners.

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While Hayes acknowledged that the schedule for completing the master plan has slid back several months since his last update, he pointed out that changes to the plan will inform changes to the Maunakea Comprehensive Management Plan, which is also being prepared for an update in 2022.

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

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