HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR)  contributed a statement of opposition regarding HB2024 CD1 relating to Mauna Kea. 

HB2024 HD1 SD2 CD1 establishes the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority as the sole authority for the management of Mauna Kea lands. It also would require the authority to manage land uses; human activities, other uses, and access; stewardship; education; research; disposition; and overall operations on its respective lands. 

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Select Hawaii senators and representatives are wanting new management for Mauna Kea, the site of some of the world’s most advanced telescopes and demonstrations against the construction of a new observatory. 

The bill would also appropriate $14 million for the startup and transition planning costs for the Mauna Kea Stewardship and oversight authority and appropriates $350,000 for K-12 public education programs in astronomy-related fields of learning.

The legislation aims to give Native Hawaiians a role in managing Mauna Kea while allowing astronomy research to continue on the mountain. The University of Hawaii currently manages Mauna Kea’s summit lands.

If passed, the legislation will create a five-year transition period where a new governing body will co-manage the area with the University of Hawaii. After the five years are up, the new authority will be the only manager.

In a statement released by DLNR they contribute how HB2024 CD1 leaves significant gaps that could result in worse management of Mauna Kea’s natural and cultural resources. 

Examples why DLNR opposes HB204 CD1:

  • This bill creates special laws for Mauna Kea separate from the State’s extensive legal framework for land management and natural and cultural resource management, beyond the oversight and control of the DLNR and the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). This is a dangerous legal precedent, contrary to our state constitution.
  • HB2024 CD1 has no provision for Conservation District regulation to continue. Any construction or commercial use could potentially be authorized by the new Authority anywhere on the 11,307 acres of the mauna’s greater summit, under this bill.
  • This bill requires the Authority to be financially self-sustaining. The lands on Mauna Kea are not revenue-generating lands. Requiring the Authority to be financially self-sustaining would lead to pressures to open conservation lands to commercial tourism.

The State of Hawaii Office of Auditor also released their testimony Tuesday April 5, stating strong concerns within the bill. 

“While we believe there is tremendous value in assessing an agency’s performance, audit objectives, (i.e., questions the audit is intended to answer), must be narrowly defined given our limited resources and other responsibilities. The mandate that we audit “the Mauna Kea stewardship and oversight authority” is extremely and overly broad. We strongly recommend that, if the audit requirement remains part of the bill, the committee identify the specific functions or activities that the committee wants assessed. Without specific direction, we will develop audit objectives based on a risk-based planning process; however, the authority’s activities that are the focus of the audit may not be those of interest to the Legislature and may not address the authority’s “fitness” to manage Mauna Kea.”

STATE OF HAWAI‘I
OFFICE OF THE AUDITOR

On Tuesday, May 3 Hawaii House passed a final reading as amended in CD1. Seven representatives voting in favor of the amendment and two voting against it.

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For more information regarding HB2024 CD1 relating to Mauna Kea click here

The Associated Press contributed to this article.