(BIVN) – A legislative effort to create a Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority – separate from the University of Hawaiʻi which currently manages the mountain under a 65-year master lease with State – continues in conference committee.
On Tuesday, members of the State House of Representatives and State Senate met to resolve the differences in House Bill 2024 after both the House and the Senate passed their own versions of the bill.
During the conference committee meeting, which was livestreamed on YouTube, Hawaiʻi island Representative David Tarnas presented the latest proposed changes. He stated:
Today I would like to present you a proposed conference draft that balances the interests of the community, native Hawaiians, the observatories, and the Mauna itself.
The authority created by this conference draft of the bill would be attached to DLNR with its headquarters at UH-Hilo Imiloa Astronomy Center or some other facility on Hawaiʻi Island.
The bill, the conference draft, articulates that ecological protection, environmental sustainability, natural resources, cultural practice, education and science would all be fostered in a mutual stewardship paradigm.
In the conference draft, there’s a five-year transition period during which the University of Hawaiʻi would handle day-to-day operations, while the new authority develops plans for stewardship, financial support, leasing process, limitations on the number of observatories, and a moratorium on new leases. During the transition, the authority would also determine the establishment of the boundaries of the Maunakea Reserve and submit regular reports to the legislature. After the five-year transition, in this conference draft, the authority assumes the powers and responsibilities of the DLNR and the LUC over the lands of the Maunakea Reserve the authority assumes the position of the University Hawaiʻi relative to the master lease, takes over day-to-day management, and would have the authority to assign leases. All current leases would still be in effect until 2033. The UH is released from legal obligations except for any previous lawsuits.
Decommissioning the Caltech Sub-millimeter Observatory and Hokukeʻa are still in the bill, in this conference draft, but the authority is responsible for developing any other limitations on observatories.
The statement about astronomy as a policy of the state is in this conference draft, but it’s modified to add that astronomy as a policy of the state must be consistent with the mutual stewardship paradigm. In other words, we are not putting astronomy above all other uses, but it shows that this bill is not about killing astronomy. We want to support and provide a sustainable future for astronomy the practice of the observatories
Granting a certain amount of observing time, which is a very valuable commodity, will continue to be part of future leases. The bill sets a minimum floor of seven percent of viewing time going to UH, with a priority for research programs that involve Hawaiʻi students, including public schools and Hawaiian language schools, and projects that collaborate with Hawaiian culture and cultural practitioners.
The bill includes the operating principles of mauna aloha, opo kupuna, and holomua. But it does not include an articulation of the kumukānāwai. However, the authority could certainly incorporate these kumukānāwai principles, if they choose to, into its own rules and operational plans.
The conference draft pushes back the audit to 2033 and removes the stipulation that a failed audit would result in the control reverting to the UH.
The board members would be named in the first year and confirmed by the senate, appointed by the Governor, and confirmed by the senate. The composition of the management board would include seats for the chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaiʻi County mayor, chair of the UH Board of Regents, an individual with ʻaina or land resource management expertise and specific experience with Hawaiʻi island-based management, an individual with expertise in k-12 public education, a representative of Maunakea observatories, an individual with business and finance expertise and management experience, an individual who is a lineal descendant of a practitioner of native Hawaiian traditional and customary practice associated with Maunakea, an individual who is a recognized practitioner of native Hawaiian traditional customary practice, and two members selected by the Governor from a list submitted by the House Speaker and the Senate President.
The conference committee is comprised of the following:
- House: Representatives Tarnas, Nakashima, Branco, Co-Chairs; Eli, and McDermott
- Senate: Senators Kim, Chair; Keith-Agaran, Co-Chair; Kanuha, and Fevella
The meeting will reconvene on Thursday, April 28.