Where is OHA on Mauna Kea?

Posted by Marti Townsend at Apr 04, 2009 11:35 PM |

From Marti:

Last week, the Board of Trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was supposed to take a formal position on the University’s new proposed development plan for Mauna Kea.  Surprisingly, they deferred decisionmaking.  It is likely that the OHA Trustees will not be able to take up the measure until after the Board of Land and Natural Resources votes next Friday on whether to adopt the plan.

This is really unfortunate.  As the state’s advocate for the best interest of Hawaiians, OHA’s Trustees should really take a stand on the University’s plan.  Is the plan good for the sacred summit and Hawaiians or not?  If it is not, then how does it need to be improved?

With great insight and knowledge, OHA staff have detailed the numerous shortcomings of the University’s development plan and explained what improvements are needed so that the plan complies with the law and actually protects the irreplaceable natural and cultural resources on the summit, as well as the interests of Native Hawaiians.  Their review highlighted:

- The plan is not “comprehensive” as defined by the Third Circuit Ruling because it fails to address multiple land uses, such as development limits and decommissioning. It also fails to comply with DLNR requirements for management plans because it lacks details, timetables, and mitigation measures.

- The plan fails to consider the Endangered Species Act, National Historic Preservation Act and Hawai`i’s historic preservation and burial laws in not only inadequate, it is illegal.

- The plan delegates management authority over Mauna Kea’s numerous historic resources to the university, which has no experience or expertise in managing historic properties.  In fact, the University’s approach to cultural practice as outlined in the plan is “offensive.”

Click here to read OHA staff’s full review of the University’s new development plan.

On March 25th, OHA’s Committee on Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment voted to send a letter to the Land Board expressing the Trustees’ willingness to work towards enhancing the management plan. With all of this, why did the full Board of Trustees choose not to act?  Are the Trustees preparing to contradict the expertise of their staff in support of the University’s development plan?

The OHA Trustees should be defending the best interests of Hawaiians, not the University.  This includes advocating for the strongest possible protections for the public trust natural and cultural resources on the summit,access to those resources (especially for cultural and religious practice), and the collection of market-based rent on all of the leases of public lands by foreign telescope entities.  Unfortunately, some of the OHA Trustees seem unwilling to take this position.

Thus, the burden now falls to individuals to make their voice heard on the quality of the management plan before the Land Board next week.  Please attend the public hearing in Hilo on April 8 and 9th at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. If you are unable to attend, please submit written testimony — our virtual testimony table makes it easy to just click-n-send, so you have few extra moments to personalize your submission — just click here.

If you are interested, the University’s plan and the Land Board’s staff recommendation are available on line, click here.

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