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State begins Maunakea transfer from UH with newly nominated stewardship team

Gov. Josh Green toured Maunakea facilities and spoke to officials onsite during a December visit last year.
Office of Gov. Josh Green
Gov. Josh Green toured Maunakea facilities and spoke to officials onsite during a December visit last year.

Gov. Josh Green has nominated the eight members of the new Maunakea Stewardship and Oversight Authority.

On July 1, a transition period begins, transferring control over Maunakea to the authority, and away from the University of Hawaiʻi.

Maunakea Stewardship and Oversight Authority Chairman John Komeiji said the group needs consultants to get the ball rolling on the kuleana, or responsibility, they have been tasked with last year under Act 255.

"We have to create a management plan, a financial plan, an astronomy framework. We have to create advisory groups. We have to create administrative rules and regulations," Komeiji said.

Over the past four months, the authority has drafted procedural rules, position descriptions and a $14 million budget request.

But Komeiji said the next steps require more extensive work.

"That’s why we’re pushing so hard to be able to hire consultants and other people to help assist us and actually do some of the work, because theoretically those consultants and employees are the ones that should be doing this, rather than the board," he said.

The board wants to spend $4 million over the next two years on consultants for project management, community outreach and independent counsel. The six staff positions that are planned need to be approved by the governor and the legislature.

Authority members have not yet been confirmed by the Senate, which has complicated matters like taking an official position on pending legislation.

Senate Bill 81, introduced by Hawaiʻi Island Sen. Lorraine Inouye, would keep authority over conservation lands on Maunakea under the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

"It takes away from the autonomy of this authority," Komeiji said. "If we're basically making recommendations and someone else can override our decision making. Then I believe that is not what was intended in the creation of this authority."

Komeiji is one of the eight nominees awaiting a confirmation hearing before Sen. Lorraine Inouye and members of the Senate Water and Land Committee.

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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