Update: Conditional Approval for UH's Mauna Kea Plan

Posted by Marti Townsend at Apr 13, 2009 08:50 PM |
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From Marti:UH spends big on backing for its new Mauna Kea plan

After two days of testimony — the majority of it in opposition — the Land Board gave preliminary approval to the University’s new plan for Mauna Kea.  The Land Board seemed to agree that the plan is not “comprehensive” as the Third Circuit Court required — and opponents have argued — because they required four specific additional plans be written within the next year. The Land Board also appeared to agree  with opponents that the University is not ready for any management authority over Mauna Kea because they added conditions to the plan that stipulated the Land Board has final say on everything the University does on the summit.

To preserve their rights, opponents of the plan requested a contested case hearing on the Land Board’s decision.  One of the plaintiffs, Clarence Kukauakahi Ching, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner and retired attorney said:

“It is unfortunate that the University has put forth this half-baked plan.  It forces the public to challenge the plan through a contested case hearing because the Land Board cannot legally approve an incomplete plan and the law provides the public only one opportunity to formally raise concerns.”

The University poured out a lot of money to get support for their plan.  At both days of the hearing, the University was represented by the President of UH, Chancellor of UH at Hilo, Interim Director of the Office of Mauna Kea Management, Chairman of the Mauna Kea Management Board, three of some of the highest paid attorneys in the state, and their public relations consultant.  It is highly unlikely that these individuals volunteered their time to sit through this public hearing – unlike the members of the public in the room — so it is possible that this one of the most expensive public hearings held in Hawaii.  Somewhere on the order $10,000 (remember, the University is publicly funded).

They also gave away food, “E malama Mauna Kea” t-shirts, buttons, and other gifts to garner public support, which by all accounts was lukewarm at best.  Everyone at the hearing – even the President himself – acknowledged that the University’s history on the summit is atrocious.  The University made every promise it could to convince the Board (and the public) that they would not make the same mistakes that pushed the Wekiu to the verge of extinction, allowed hazardous chemicals to contaminate the environment, desecrated the sanctity of the summit, and violated the trust of the people of Hawaii.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to enforce these promises.

Kealoha Pisciotta, President of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou and also a plaintiff in the case to protect Mauna Kea, said:

“While we are heartened to see so many islanders calling for greater protection of Mauna Kea  — to “E Malama Mauna Kea,” we have found the actual language in the UH CMP and the UH bill will actually do the exact opposite. The UH CMP does not malama Mauna Kea.  It blocks public access and forces Hawaiian practitioners to get a permit to worship.  It even allows the UH to destroy Hawaiian cultural sites and paves the way for over 40 more telescopes.  We encourage everyone to thoroughly read what is actually written in the UH CMP and UH bill.  What is written is what really counts, not what the University promises.”

Despite the University’s propaganda, most testifiers did not support the plan.  Alii Ai Moku Paul Neves of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I said in his testimony:

“I read the University’s plan and what I see is the fox grinning with chicken feathers in its mouth and broken eggs under its claws, asking for the opportunity build the next chicken-house.  The sacred summit of Mauna Kea belongs to the people of Hawaii not the University.  Given the history of abuse and misuse of the mountain by the University, it makes no sense to put the University — the developer — in control of our summit-temple.”

If you are concerned about protecting the summit of Mauna Kea and want to learn more, then visit our website: www.KAHEA.org.  Consider joining the Mauna Kea group at www.Maoliworld.com.  And take action in future action alerts on Mauna Kea, like this one to hold H.B. 1174 because it seeks to give rule-making authority over the summit to the University.

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