(BIVN) – A new draft of proposed University of Hawaiʻi administrative rules for Mauna Kea is part of an “unsavory history of malfeasance”, according to author Tom Peek, who testified in opposition to the rules Tuesday evening in Hilo.
The public hearing, held at Waiakea Elementery School, was the second in a series of four hearings being held across the state.
Peek was one of many testifiers to criticize the UH rules that would govern public and commercial activity on university-managed lands on Maunakea. The University of Hawaiʻi holds a master lease for the lands on the mountain, issued by the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources.
Peek read the following testimony into the record:
I’m Tom Peek, long ago an astronomy guide for the observatories and an eyewitness to 30 years of UH and DLNR malfeasance — malfeasance driven by a combination of ethnocentric prejudice and unrelenting pressure from Hawai‘i’s construction and tourism industries. Given that unsavory history, I challenge the legitimacy of these rules and the Office of Mauna Kea Management that created them.
The seeds of these rules were planted in a notorious time, when a blistering 1998 legislative audit finally exposed decades of UH and DLNR malfeasance (which by then some of us insiders already knew).
Ten years earlier (1988), when I was beefing up our fledgling Visitor Information Station program, restricting islanders’ access was definitely not supported by the mountain’s astronomy staff. We knew islanders had long feared that astronomy would take over the mountaintop, and we all understood that Mauna Kea belonged to them long before we showed up.
That understanding was upturned by UH President Kenneth Mortimer and Institute for Astronomy Acting Director Bob McLaren in their defensive — even vindictive — response to the audit.
Mortimer and McLaren — and the BLNR Chair — denied most of the auditor’s conclusions, blaming the public for whatever problems existed. And they proposed the first public access limits — similar to those in these “administrative rules.”
Sierra Club’s Nelson Ho called that “scapegoating the public” rather than dealing with the “industrialization and commercialization of the summit.”
But even more disturbing, UH proposed creating their own management agency — an entity they could control — OMKM. OMKM was never intended to restore balance on the mountain but instead to use sham planning and carefully contrived cultural consultation as political cover for building more telescopes and to begin limiting noncommercial access to the summit.
Sierra Club, Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, the Royal Order of Kamehameha, Ka Lahui Hawai‘i and others opposed OMKM’s creation because of its obvious conflict of interest — “a fox guarding the henhouse.” Instead, they proposed a wholly new management agency in which statutory “rightholders” of this ceded land would manage the mountain on behalf of the public and Native Hawaiians, rather than for astronomers, tour companies and the construction industry.
But “old boy politics” prevailed.
These rules are part of that unsavory history of malfeasance — tools to completely take over the mountaintop, as Big Islanders feared in the 1980s, and to further empower an illegitimate OMKM.
If enacted, the rules will almost certainly end up in court — as they should. And you Regents will be tainted — as you should.
Instead, please reject this rulemaking charade and embrace Hawaiian proposals for a new management agency that has no conflict of interest — and distance yourselves from this OMKM mess.
Big Island Video News will be uploading the entire video of the hearing.