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6 of 8 individuals nominated to new Maunakea authority are Native Hawaiian

Caleb Jones/AP
FILE - The sun sets behind telescopes on July 14, 2019, at the summit of the Big Island's Maunakea in Hawaiʻi. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File)

The state Senate is considering nominees, a majority of whom are Native Hawaiian, for the new Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority.

Six of the eight individuals nominated by Gov. David Ige to serve on the new Maunakea authority are Native Hawaiian.

Kamanamaikalani Beamer
Kamanamaikalani Beamer
Kamanamaikalani Beamer is a University of Hawaiʻi professor and former commissioner of the Hawaiʻi State Water Resource Management Commission.

The list surprised University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa professor Kamanamaikalani Beamer, who was nominated for his expertise in land resource management.

"The majority of those people you saw there have been at the forefront of advocating for a better future for Maunakea. It was just a few years ago, thousands of kiaʻi from all over Hawaiʻi, in some cases, put their bodies on the line and their careers because we knew Maunakea means that much for all of us and is that important," Beamer told HPR.

For over 50 years, astronomy development on the island's highest peak grew to include 13 telescopes with little to no input from Native Hawaiians, according to two state audits.

Hawaiian educator Kalehua Krug, who was also on Ige's list, says he wants to do right by the ʻāina.

Kalehua Krug is the principal of Ka Waihona o ka Naʻauao Public Charter School on Oʻahu.
Ka Waihona o ka Naʻauao Public Charter School
Kalehua Krug is the principal of Ka Waihona o ka Naʻauao Public Charter School on Oʻahu.

"A ke ‘ano hiki mai nei kākou i kekahi keʻehina kīpapali a kūpilikiʻi hoʻoweliweli no ke ʻano o ka noho ʻana ma Hawaiʻi nei. Ka wā kēia e kū ai ka Hawaiʻi i luna a no ka mea o ke kuana ʻike Hawaiʻi ka mea e ola ai ko Hawaiʻi kanaka."

Krug says we're at a critical juncture and our current trajectory poses a threat to our way of life in Hawai’i. The time has come, he says, to elevate the Hawaiian perspective to help guide Hawaiʻi down a more sustainable path.

The new authority comes at a time when the state is considering another telescope on Maunakea — the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Native Hawaiian hospitality veteran and Nā Leo TV executive Paul Horner, another Ige nominee, says he hasn’t made up his mind on TMT.

Paul Horner is the president and CEO of Nā Leo o Hawaiʻi, the public access television station on Hawaiʻi Island.
Nā Leo O Hawaiʻi
Paul Horner is the president and CEO of Nā Leo o Hawaiʻi, the public access television station on Hawaiʻi Island.

"I started out thinking that maybe we should be grateful that we can share that with the world. But then again, I felt a little uneasy about how some of the things happened up there prior to everybody becoming aware of how they left some of the ancient sites in ruins. So I could go either way," Horner told HPR.

Horner was chosen from the state Senate’s short list, and retired UH professor Noe Noe Wong-Wilson was chosen from the state House’s short list.

Lanakila Mangauil was tapped for his expertise on Hawaiian traditional and customary practices.

Mangauil and Wong-Wilson were leaders of the 2019 protests that brought a halt to the construction of TMT.

And Polynesian Voyaging Society member Pomai Bertelmann was chosen to serve as the lineal descendant of a Hawaiian practitioner associated with Maunakea.

House Speaker Scott Saiki says Hawaiian ancestry was not a legal requirement for members of the authority, but that representation matters.

"The Maunakea issue is first and foremost a Big Island issue and a Native Hawaiian issue. And we need to give consideration to both of those categories," Saiki said.

Rounding out the list of appointees are John Komeiji, former general counsel at Kamehameha Schools, and Rich Matsuda, an engineer and longtime technical manager at W. M. Keck Observatory.

"For astronomy, the future land authorization is a big issue for us. And so having the authority get stood up and to become functional as soon as possible is really important to us. Our current lease goes until 2033, and so we need to figure out the path well in advance of that," Matsuda said.

All eight of Ige's appointees are subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

The authority will have 11 voting members. The other three are representatives of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents and Hawaiʻi County's mayor.

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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