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Measure seeking to change Maunakea stewardship approved by House, Senate

FILE - Observatories on Maunakea on Hawaiʻi Island in 2022.
Zoe Dym
FILE - Observatories on Maunakea on Hawaiʻi Island in 2022.

Hawaiʻi lawmakers have worked out their differences on a bill that would create a new management authority for Maunakea, the site of some of the world's most advanced telescopes and demonstrations against the construction of a new observatory.

An amended bill was agreed to in a conference committee Friday. House and Senate lawmakers approved it on May 3.

The legislation aims to give Native Hawaiians a role in managing Maunakea while allowing astronomy research to continue on the mountain.

The University of Hawaiʻi currently manages Maunakea's summit lands.

The legislation creates a five-year transition period during which the new governing body will co-manage the area with the University of Hawaiʻi. After that, the new authority will be the sole manager.

Waimea Rep. David Tarnas says the new authority would be tasked with carrying out a new state policy of supporting astronomy consistent with this mutual stewardship paradigm.

"With this bill, we recognize the critical significance of Maunakea for both culture and science as it offers an urgent and unique opportunity in this bill to surmount the dichotomy and develop new ways to mutually steward Maunakea," Tarnas said. "We really believe that a reformation of the stewardship of Maunakea is an issue of the highest priority for the state."

"The purpose of the Maunakea Stewardship and Oversight Authority is to protect Maunakea for future generations and manage the lands contained there for the purpose of fostering a mutual stewardship paradigm in which ecology the environment, natural resources, cultural practices, education and science are in balance and synergy," he said.

The bill says the new stewardship and oversight authority will have 11 voting members, including eight appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The appointees would include one descendant of a practitioner of Native Hawaiian traditions and customs associated with Maunakea and one recognized practitioner of Native Hawaiian traditions and customs.

One appointee would be selected from a list of three names submitted by Maunakea Observatories, a consortium of telescopes at the summit.

Update: This measure passed the House and Senate on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. The bill now goes to Gov. David Ige for consideration.

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Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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