(BIVN) – On the same day the state removed other structures from Mauna Kea, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands took action on Hale Kūhiō, the small “ranger station” on the side of the Mauna Kea Access Road not far from the turn-off from Saddle Road.
DHHL has called Hale Kūhiō an illegal structure and threatened to remove the building in the past. On Thursday morning, the dismantling began.
“We are highly shocked DHHL conducted these efforts this morning to destroy the ranger station,” said Kepa Kaeo, one of the Hawaiian Homes beneficiaries who was there when the first version of the ranger station went up in March 2018. “We have received written letters stating that DHHL has the right to dismantle the station,” Kaeo said, “but there was no indication that they were planning to do that. Even after the letters, we received – verbally – assurance from DHHL reps that there were no plans to dismantle the station and the letters were sent to limit DHHL’s liability.”
Kaeo livestreamed video of the DHHL action. Acting Hawaiian Homes chair William Ailā was on hand to oversee the demolition.
The action came just hours before the state announced that the Department of Land and Natural Resources issued a notice to proceed for the Thirty Meter Telescope project. However, unlike the two ʻahu on the summit of Mauna Kea and the Hale Kukiaʻimauna at Hale Pohaku, Hale Kūhiō was not directly related to the TMT issue.
“We started a Kanaka Ranger Program to help assist DHHL in the management of the 50,000 plus acres on the ʻAina Mauna Legacy on Moku O Keawe,” Kaeo said in an interview. “KRP has worked closely with the DHHL and has members on the DHHL official Mauna advisory group which we sit and hold a position on.”
“After consultation with both the DHHL and homestead associations and communities, the Kanaka Rangers erected Hale Kūhiō with their blessings,” Kaeo said. “The funding was donated from over 700 individuals that paid $1 for their family members who are waiting or who have died” on the Hawaiian Homes waitlist, he said.
“Hale Kūhiō and the Kanaka Rangers Program are not directly related to the TMT issue,” Kaeo said. “The only concern, the only connection, is that TMT will significantly affect DHHL lands which must be crossed over for access to the construction site.”
A DHHL spokesperson declined to comment on the matter, instead referring Big Island Video News to a state press conference held later in the day, and the new, centralized government phone-line specifically set up to field Mauna Kea-related media questions.
“Even though there were different agencies, appropriate state agencies, who were removing the unauthorized structures, it was a coordinated effort for security and for safety reasons,” said Hawaiʻi Attorney General Clare Connors during the press conference. “Its all tied together,” she said.
“The feeling that I have here is not a feeling of loss it’s more of a feeling of momentum,” Kaeo said. “This injustice and genocide must stop. And we’re going to take a stand right now. The toll is too great.”