Heated discussion over a bill calling for the removal of the board that manages Mauna Kea
Heated discussion at the State Capital Monday, over a bill calling for the removal of the board that manages Mauna Kea.
Heated discussion at the State Capitol Monday, over a bill calling for the removal of the board that manages Mauna Kea. That board is currently run by the University of Hawaii.
"We shouldn't even be here right now if the University of Hawaii did what they were supposed to do," Sen. Kai Kahele said.
Big Island Senator Kai Kahele spotlighting what he calls UH's mismanagement of Mauna Kea.
The university countered those claims saying it's committed to stewardship and altering it's management model.
"UH has not shyed away from its responsibilities over these past years as we have developed plans and sub plans with the community consultation. That have been approved by the board of regents and the board of Land and Natural Resources in full sunshine," Greg Chun, senior advisers of the Mauna Kea Management Board said.
The measure proposes replacing the current board with a governor appointed one. The nine member council would require three seats be set aside for native Hawaiians.
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim says the existing board should be reorganized, not replaced.
"You do not make changes before you go in and have a total review of what the problem is and to get that you need input from people all over," Kim said.
For years, Mauna Kea has been at the center of passionate protests about the construction of a thirty meter telescope.
The bill also calls for the renegotiation of current telescope leases.
Right now, UH waives ground leases in exchange for research time on the existing telescopes.
"The leasing of these lands, ceded lands, kingdom lands that are in a public trust doctrine for one dollar a year when there's potentially $40 million a year for a telescope on the mountain I'm trying to understand that," Kahele said.
"How is that justice to the native Hawaiians when we go to Ohio and ask for a grant or money and stuff, we limited by that scope because of ridiculous deals like one dollar a year leases. Yet the UH is able to rake and millions of dollars," DeMont Conner, Ho'omana Pono LLC said.
Astronomer Doug Simons, a researcher atop the summit, agrees a discussion needs to happen to address lease rental agreements.
"So this is in fact a conversation I intend to have within the observatories this year. It's the right time to do that. We simply haven't had the conversation across all of the observatories but it's time that we did that," Simons said.
The bill proposes 20 percent of the adjusted rent go towards the Office of Hawaiian Affairs- to benefit native Hawaiians.
OHA says it supports the bill.
The Senate committees on Higher Education and Water and Land are expected to make a decision on the bill on Wednesday.