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Second round of public hearings for Maunakea

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Mauna kea

The Maunakea observatories were established in 1968.


The University of Hawai‘i will be holding another round of public hearings in response to feedback and concerns from the previous drafts of the administrative rules governing Maunakea.

Senior advisor Greg Chun, who was appointed last year to advise UH President David Lassner and UH Hilo Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai in overseeing the management and fulfillment of Maunakea, said the biggest change that was highlighted in the administrative rules was the customary practices of Native Hawaiians. 

Following the 2009 enactment of Act 132, which requires the university to seek feedback and work alongside stakeholders such as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the four-day hearings will be held across the state in the first week of June.

Chapter 20-26, Hawai’i Administrative Rules, will be undergoing its third draft.

“There’s a section in the original draft of the rules that talked about traditional and customary Native Hawaiian rights,” Chun said. “If you read it carefully, you would see that (it) never prevented Native Hawaiians from practicing their traditions and customary rights.”

At last year’s hearings in September, there were 92 people who testified. 

In January, UH administration sought informal consultation to provide opportunity for the public to give feedback. UH received 108 responses on its government relations website, while 140 came from a third party online petition. The petition stated that “UH has no jurisdiction to propose Maunakea administrative rules.”

“That’s sort of the bulk we had to work with,” Chun said in regards to comments on the administrative rules.

Areas of Concern

An area of concern was the vague language from the previous drafts of the rules. 

UH student Makamae Kaupu, who read the first two drafts, criticized the language cited.

“As a whole, the first two drafts of Chapter 20-26 service stated interest groups, such as the ‘university’ and anyone ‘under agreement with the university.’” Kaupu said. “It exempt research and education activities conducted by these groups. I argue that the regulation on the commercial activities are minimal compared to public activities to to the imbalance in noted regulations.”

Kaupu added that she does not know what to expect for the next rounds of hearings for the third draft because she’s “not sure if people have become aware” since last year’s public hearings. 

Another area of concern was the rules on large groups; groups over 10. The draft aims to establish a permit to help inform them if anything is going on in the certain areas of Maunakea. 

Chun said they’ve made an effort to revamp that particular rule.

The Revision Process

There’s approximately two-and-a-half pages worth of revisions for the third draft of the administrative rules of Maunakea, according to Chun.

On April 18, the Board of Regents approved the second round of hearings on Maunakea management rules. 

According to a letter to the board from UH Hilo, the cost of the public hearings from last year totaled approximately $24,600 and is expected to be the same for the second round. 

In 2017, OHA filed a lawsuit against the state and UH for its mismanagement of Maunakea. In 2018, the Maunakea Management Board chairperson and the Office of Maunakea Management staff reached out to OHA to consult on an updated draft of the rules. The draft was slightly amended to reflect a portion of OHA’s concerns, but OHA emphasized that the rules needed to address more concerns. 

When asked about the update of the lawsuit, Chun made it clear that the universty still collaborates with OHA. 

“Any of a number of things including the administrative rules, but just as a practice, it’s a good thing for us to do that. So we reach out to them frequently on these kinds of matters,” Chun said in regards to OHA. “In addition to that, we’re constantly consulting with Natural Land and Resources because the overlap juridictions.”

Moving Forward

Though Chun is not sure how many people will attend these rounds of public hearings, he still encourages the community to attend.

“I’m hopeful that people will take the time to look at the rules in what we’ve done in response to their concerns,” Chun said.

The public hearings will be held at four locations on across the state.