Maunakea public hearing on Oahu

Over 100 people attended the second round of public hearings on the proposed administrative rules for Maunakea on June 3.

The latest draft of the Maunakea administrative rules will be presented to the Board of Regents for consideration at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo on Nov. 6, after the meeting was rescheduled three times within four months.

“I think the regents are a lot more comfortable taking this matter up considering its significance,” UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said.

Following the 2009 ACT 132, the state legislature gave authority for the BOR to adopt the rules if they protect cultural and natural resources and ensure public safety. If accepted, the draft will be sent to the governor for final approval. If rejected, the process of revising and public hearings will start over.

The design came from the 1998 audit to help UH manage the 11,000-acre land, excluding the small portion of the summit where the telescopes are located. 

A 600-page report will showcase some of the modified rules to provide clarification on safety precautions for the public.

Jesse Souki, UH associate general counsel, said a few rules that were changed included camping and the appeal time.

Under Chapter 20-26-2, “‘Camping’ means the use of UH management areas (other than designated facilities at Halepōhaku) for living accommodation purposes such as sleeping activities, or making preparation to sleep (including but not limited to the laying down of bedding for the purpose of sleeping).”

Souki said blankets were an indication of camping in the previous draft, so the rules were changed for people to have blankets without being fined. 

“The concern is people staying overnight,” he said. “We don’t have the facilities, and it’s dangerous because of the high altitudes.”

Camping falls under public activities violations. Fines for the first violation can range from $50 to $400, and a third time is between $1,001 and $2,500. Other violations can increase to $10,000. 

In the previous draft, the appeal time was six days from when the violation is received, but Souki said that the revised version makes it 15 days. 

“We modified the rules based on the public comments,” Souki said. “Strong reactions, but you don’t know sometimes what people think about until you get to those hearings.”

Hundreds have testified in the past rounds of public hearings across the islands. Last year, there were 406 written testimonies and 92 who testified in person. The number of people orally testifying increased to 133 while 332 submitted written testimonies over the summer. 

“A lot of the testimonies overall was not about the rules,” Souki said. “A lot of it was about ‘you don’t have jurisdiction over it (Maunakea) because the kingdom still exists.’ That’s an important issue, but we can’t pass rules about that. That’s not what these rules are for.”

Critics, including UH students, have voiced their concerns on how strict the rules are and fears of them inhibiting Native Hawaiian practices.

Tiele-Lauren Doudt, one of the participants of the Bachman Hall sit-in, said that students are preparing to gather funds to fly out and testify in opposition to the rules. 

“It was clearly articulated that it’s not meant to help Hawaiians in any way,” Doudt said of the rules. “I know there’s some clauses that says cultural practitioners can go up with permit, but I don’t think indigenous people should be restricted to have to fill out paperwork and get approval from a foreigner or from someone that hasn’t spent generations here.”

“But I’m interested in seeing the community engagement because this situation has been prolonged for so long.”

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