The members of a group that will explore alternative management strategies for Maunakea were announced Monday.
House Speaker Scott Saiki named the 15 members of the Maunakea Working Group after receiving dozens of nominations.
A state House resolution to form the group was approved earlier this year in response to a 2020 evaluation that found the University of Hawaii, which currently manages the land, had not adequately communicated with Native Hawaiian and cultural practitioner groups.
Hamakua Rep. Mark Nakashima will serve as chairman of the working group.
“Because my district does include Maunakea, my community is depending on this working group to fulfill our mission,” Nakashima said. “The residents of Hawaii Island have been engaged in this discussion for several years now, and the feeling is that they would like to see the issue resolved.”
Seven members of the group are Native Hawaiians nominated by Native Hawaiian organizations. Saiki said the seven were selected out of 53 nominations based on their experience and community involvement.
Of the Native Hawaiian members, five are from the Big Island, one is from Oahu and one is from Maui, Saiki said. Three of them also were among the kia‘i, or protectors, who in 2019 opposed the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea.
“I’m hoping we can successfully come up with a new way to manage the mauna and remove the University of Hawaii,” working group member and kia‘i Noe Noe Wong-Wilson told the Tribune-Herald.
Wong-Wilson said she hopes other members of the group — which include representatives of UH and the Maunakea Observatories — intend to discuss the matter in good faith, saying “we can only hope” a consensus can be reached.
Nakashima said he has long been in support of building TMT on Maunakea, but added that the working group is not relitigating the TMT issue. Rather, the goal is merely how to improve management of the mountain.
However, Saiki added that a proposal by the group — which will be submitted to the state Legislature by the end of the year — likely will have implications for whether the state should renew UH’s master lease for the summit lands where TMT will be built. That master lease expires in 2033.
The other Native Hawaiian members are Jocelyn Leialoha M. Doane, Lui Hokoana, Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele, Joshua Lanakila Manguil, Brialyn Onodera and Shane Palacat-Nelsen.
Three other working group members were selected from the House. Saiki said he felt it appropriate for Native Hawaiian representatives to speak on the group, and so he appointed Oahu Reps. Ty J. K. Cullen and Stacelynn K. M. Eli.
Saiki also named Kohala Rep. David Tarnas to the group because of his status as chairman of the House Water and Land Committee. Tarnas also introduced the resolution that led to the group’s formation.
The remaining four members were announced a month ago. They are Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chief Advocate Sterling Wong, representing OHA; Department of Land and Natural Resources First Deputy Robert K. Masuda, representing the DLNR board; UH-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin, representing the UH Board of Regents; and Rich Matsuda, interim chief operating officer at W. M. Keck Observatory, representing the Maunakea Observatories.
Saiki and Nakashima did not offer specifics about how the group will be funded or operate, saying that details are still being worked out. However, Nakashima said he thinks the group’s meetings will be conducted online and will be remotely viewable.
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