(BIVN) – The University of Hawaiʻi held a virtual forum on its draft of a new Maunakea Master Plan on Wednesday evening.
The 122-page draft of the new plan master plan – entitled E Ō I Ka Leo (Listen to the Voice) – has been posted online for public review and comment. The University says the plan “will guide land use decisions on UH-managed Maunakea lands and serve as a framework for aligning land use decisions, management actions and educational programs.” The existing Master Plan was adopted in 2000 with an intended 20-year lifespan.
The forum was moderated by Marisa Yamane, and was livestreamed over YouTube. Yamane sat next to the Executive Director of the Center for Maunakea Stewardship Greg Chun, who did most of the presenting. They were joined remotely by Doug Simons, the new director for the UH Institute for Astronomy, and Jim Hayes of Planning Solutions Inc who is helping to develop the new master plan.
The forum also featured some community questions, which were submitted electronically and read by the moderator.
KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, the non-profit that has been critical of UH activities on the mountain, asked: “Why did you name your plan E Ō I Ka Leo (Listen To The Voice), yet you can include tone-deaf ideas like a gate blocking access to the summit?”
Chun answered that “the State administration, the Department of Land and Natural Resources – as well as other parts of the community – have voiced very strong concerns about the impact to the resources from vehicular traffic in particular. So, we have an obligation to look at some kind of managed access program. What we’ve proposed in the plan, or outline in the plan, are some of the ideas. They’re not specific projects. They still need to be vetted. But they are a response to concerns that we have heard from above, as well as from other voices in the community.”
One question incapsulated the difficulties of virtual forums when it asked, “if you are sincere in your intent to meaningfully engage the community on future plans for Maunakea, why this strange format that doesn’t allow us to hear from each other and doesn’t allow for a more transparent process?”
“This age of COVID has has been a challenge for all of us, particularly those needing and wanting to engage with the community, and on issues,” Chun answered. “This is a format that the UH communications team has developed and used for the university’s leadership forums during the pandemic. It wasn’t created for this specific forum.”
“It’s also a way for us to make sure we can stay on the topic of the new master plan, because that’s really what we want to hear the community input on,” Chun added.
UH says it is accepting public comments on the draft Master Plan up through Tuesday, October 26, 2021. “All comments / feedback and forum questions will be taken into consideration as the draft is amended before going to the UH Board of Regents for review and possible further changes before final approval, which is expected in early 2022,” the university said.