The University of Hawaii responded Wednesday to a review of the implementation of its management plan for Maunakea.
On New Year’s Eve, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources released the results of an independent review of UH’s effectiveness in carrying out its Maunakea Comprehensive Management Plan. Using comments from community members and UH stakeholders, the review was intended to determine how well the university had carried out the stated goals of the plan, which was enacted in 2009.
While the review found that certain UH policies are generally well-regarded among the public — particularly those related to environmental conservation on the mountain — it also found the university’s cultural and communication policies are much less popular.
In particular, many respondents think the university has neglected the wishes of Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners to focus on astronomy development.
“This criticism is not new, has been taken to heart and is a fundamental driver behind UH’s restructuring of its internal management, notably consolidating management responsibility from the UH-Manoa Institute for Astronomy to UH-Hilo,” reads a UH statement issued Wednesday. “UH has already incorporated strategies to address this concern in its work to develop a new Maunakea Master Plan and update the (Comprehensive Management Plan). This process is also considering a new overall governance approach that will strengthen and broaden direct engagement with Native Hawaiian and other community stakeholders.”
The statement went on to list other ways to improve UH’s cultural programming, including the development of educational materials for visitors and workers at Maunakea.
The university also responded to other criticisms, such as the university’s slow pace in adopting administrative rules that were signed by Gov. David Ige in January 2020.
“Although there were some delays outside of UH control, UH acknowledges that the rulemaking process could have been completed sooner,” the UH statement says. “Nonetheless, the management actions enabled by the administrative rules are now being implemented. Activities underway include establishing processes to manage access in order to limit excessive traffic, updating commercial tour operator guidelines and setting up a citation system for use by the Maunakea rangers.”
The statement concluded with a promise to use the results of the assessment to continue to improve its stewardship of the mountain.
“The university appreciates the acknowledgment that the issues surrounding Maunakea are contentious and that the public’s assessment of UH primarily depends on whether they support or oppose telescope development on Maunakea. This is a very complex, divisive and challenging issue,” the statement reads. “UH remains committed to being excellent stewards of the mauna and believe we have a strong foundation to build on.”