(BIVN) – Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, trying to find a way forward for the Thirty Meter Telescope project, is planning to once again recommend changes to the Mauna Kea management structure, local media outlets report.
After a month of meetings with Hawaiian community leaders (but not TMT representatives or opposition leaders), Mayor Kim is reportedly set make his report to Governor David Ige. The governor handed the issue off to the mayor in July, as TMT opposition became entrenched at the base of Mauna Kea, stopping construction crews from ascending the mountain.
If the mayor recommends Mauna Kea management governance as reported, it won’t be the first time the mayor has suggested such changes be made. Mauna Kea stewardship currently falls under the University of Hawaiʻi, which has a master lease for the summit area from the state.
Back in early 2018, with the Governor’s blessing, the mayor convened a group of advisors to draw up a vision for Mauna Kea. The final statement produced by Kim included several action items, including a reorganization of mountain management.
At the state capitol in February, Mayor Kim was questioned by State Senator Kai Kahele during a committee hearing at the Capitol. At the time, Kahele was pushing his own proposed legislation to create a new Mauna Kea Management Authority, in Senate Bill 3090. The bill was divisive, and despite numerous revisions, it was unable to get the support it needed to pass the legislature.
“I appreciate what he’s trying to do,” Kahele said about Kim’s efforts at a later community meeting. “He has no jurisdictional authority on Mauna Kea. Zero. None. There is nothing that Mayor Kim can implement at the Office of Mauna Kea Management. There’s nothing he can implement at the state legislature. There’s really nothing the governor can implement to change the management structure of Mauna Kea. The county has no jurisdictional authority of Mauna Kea.”
One year later, Kim finished his statement, and included only a vague reference to management of the mountain, saying that the state should “review and reorganize management authority” and that “paramount to future management is involvement of the host culture.”
Hawaii News Now reports that the mayor is now getting more specific. The “newly-created management authority would represent a broad cross section of organizations, from government to Native Hawaiian organizations,” HNN reporter Mahealani Richardson wrote, adding that UH “would no longer solely manage the mountain”.
It could be difficult to convince the University of Hawaiʻi to go along with such changes. In May 2019, as UH President David Lassner gave an update on his “four ideas” for management changes to the Board of Regents, Lassner said some aspects of his proposal got a cold reception from Mauna Kea Observatory directors and the Mauna Kea Management Board.
“The Mauna Kea Management Board was not very excited about designating seats on that board that would be for specific stakeholders – like saying this person is the OHA representative, this person is the DLNR representative, this is the mayor’s representative,” Lassner said. “They were extremely supportive of inviting input from all of those groups, each and every time we make appointments. So that was excellent feedback and I think it’s another way of trying to accomplish the same goal.”
Lassner also said the Mauna Kea Observatory directors “are quite happy with the way the Mauna Kea Support Service program is working under the leadership of the Institute for Astronomy. They are quite concerned at a change that might impact the services which they do pay for. So, I think we have some work to do to ensure that we don’t break anything that’s working, while moving to a more streamlined and integrated structure.”
Speaking today over the phone, TMT opponent Kealoha Pisciotta of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou reiterated her previous response to Mayor Kim’s Mauna Kea vision and recommendations: as long as the Thirty Meter Telescope remains a possibility, his proposal will not be acceptable, she said.
Pisciotta also reminds that her organization, along with the Royal Oder of Kamehameha, authored the Mauna Kea Temple Report in 2001, which offered solutions to “protecting the sacred resource” and “restore balance” to the mountain.