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Working group may not visit Maunakea

  • NAKASHIMA

A working group formed to discuss the future governance of Maunakea might not actually visit the mauna.

The Maunakea Working Group, which was formed earlier this year to develop recommendations for a new management structure for the mountain, has met eight times so far, but a plan for the group to physically visit the mountain has been postponed indefinitely.

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“The intention was to visit the mountain, since not everybody (in the working group) had been there,” said Hilo Rep. Mark Nakashima, who chairs the group. “We thought it would help for people to become more familiar with the mountain and get a sense of the physical layout.”

In July, the visit was scheduled to take place in early August. However, before that could happen, the COVID-19 pandemic had a resurgence throughout the state, and the visit was pushed back to last weekend.

On Aug. 25, the group met again, and because the COVID surge had failed to weaken significantly, the group voted to hold off on the meeting indefinitely, Nakashima said.

“We’ll make a decision later this year about doing the visit,” Nakashima said, adding that it could still happen if the pandemic eases.

The working group is obligated to submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the state Legislature by the end of this year. Nakashima has previously said that the group will hold at least one public meeting before that deadline.

Beyond talking about the possible site visit, the working group’s meetings have involved discussions about specific aspects of the existing management structures and the members’ personal connections to, and perspectives about, the mauna.

Meetings are now held weekly, Nakashima said.

Meanwhile, Nakashima said the activities of the group will not be affected by the University of Hawaii’s updated Maunakea Master Plan, which was unveiled Sunday. The group will, he said, continue to work toward a management structure that could replace UH as steward of the mauna.

“The intent of the group was that the university has run its course,” Nakashima said. “And that anything they do now is too little, too late.”

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Nakashima added that even though UH-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin is a member of the group, she is “only one voice” among 15 members, six of whom are representatives of the Native Hawaiian community.

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

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