BLNR passes emergency rule to ban camping atop Mauna Kea

Local News

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources passed an emergency rule to stop people from camping atop Mauna Kea. The vote was 5 – 2.

To promote what it called “safe access to the Mauna Kea summit,” the state proposed “nighttime hours during which individuals may not remain within a designated restricted area and also prohibits the presence of camping-related supplies within the restricted areas at all hours.”

The new rule does not allow anyone without a vehicle to be on the main road from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Camping gear is also prohibited.

The board says that there is a provision in the rule change for special permits.

Hawaii County board member Stanley Roehrig said that this was an difficult decision. He also asked for the board to look into arrest powers for DOCARE on Mauna Kea.

Prohibited activities. (a) The area referred to in this rule as the “restricted area” is defined as any lands in the public hunting area that includes the Mauna Kea Observatory Access Road and one mile on either side of the Mauna Kea Observatory Access road. (b) As used in this rule, the term “transiting” means operating, or being a passenger in, a motor vehicle travelling at a reasonable and prudent speed and having regard to the actual and potential hazards and conditions then existing. (c) No person shall at any time possess or control in the restricted area any of the following items: sleeping bag, tent, camping stove, or propane burner. (d) No person shall enter or remain in the restricted area during the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., unless the person is transiting through the restricted area on the Mauna Kea Observatory Access Road or is lawfully within or entering or exiting an existing observatory or a facility operated by the University of Hawaii.

Roughly 200 people gathered at Kalanimoku Building on Punchbowl Street Friday to observe the proceedings and testify on the matter. Many held a chant before the hearing began at 1 p.m.

State Attorney General Doug Chin fielded questions from the board. He said the goal isn’t to stop people from protesting, but rather to regulate their conduct for the sake of public safety.

Concerns were raised after rocks and rock walls were placed across the summit access road to prevent vehicles from resuming construction on the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

“It’s not enough to just be hearing ‘We’ve cleaned it up. Don’t worry, it’s not going to happen again.’ What has occurred, there’s been statements saying… I’m paraphrasing, but statements like ‘We’ll do whatever it takes to stop such-and-such,'” he said. “If that’s the case, then to the people who are working there and as board members with the fiduciary duty to prevent any sort of liabilities that could occur, it’s very important to think about that. We want this to be a place that is going to be ultimately a safe, open access road.”

Chin told KHON2 before the meeting that, if passed, the emergency rule would pave the way for more arrests.

“It does give that opportunity for either civil fines or criminal penalties, and when I say criminal penalties, I’ll be candid about it, that would mean potentially being arrested,” he said.

The University of Hawaii released logs kept by rangers and the visitor information station that outline numerous safety concerns and threats to natural, historical and cultural resources, all due to recent protests against TMT.

Due to limited capacity, only 25 testifiers were allowed in the meeting at one time. The rest watched from an overflow area outside.

Here’s some of what was said during the meeting:

“You don’t ever even attempt to assault us in thinking that you know better than us.” — Kalani Asam

“They have obstructed traffic by standing or sitting in the middle of the road at all hours, harassed visitors and workers, questioning them about their destination and affiliation.” — Stewart Hunter, Mauna Kea Support Services

“The only emergency facing Mauna Kea today is further desecration by TMT. Your emergency rules are another prime example… of history repeating itself, whether it be the self-proclaimed provisional government of 1893 or the entity true claims to be the state government today, the tactics are the same: manipulate the facts, spin the truth, change the rules to achieve your goal.” — Michelle Sakurai

“We have to have a space we can say no to this TMT. If you think it’s bad for rocks to be thrown on the road, what about the two-acre site that TMT is going to take, digging out two stories into the ground and 18 stories above the ground?” — Lilikala Kameeleihiwa

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