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Kim talks management during meeting with Ige, other officials about mountain’s future

Mayor Harry Kim said Friday he was pleased with a meeting he had with Gov. David Ige and other officials regarding his vision statement for Maunakea.

Kim developed the statement seeking greater harmony between cultural and scientific uses in response to conflict over the Thirty Meter Telescope.

“All of us agreed that we must work to establish a trusting relationship with the community, especially the Hawaiian community,” he said after the meeting.

In addition to Ige, the mayor met with University of Hawaii President David Lassner, state Attorney General Clare Connors and others representing astronomy and UH-Hilo’s Office of Maunakea Management in his Hilo office.

What remains unclear is how or if Kim’s vision, which involves the mountain being a symbol of the Hawaiian people, international cooperation, the quest for knowledge and more, will be implemented. Most of Maunakea is state land.

Initiatives outlined by Kim include: creating a major cultural center, recognizing and preserving the “qualities of Maunakea that make it a premier place to expand our knowledge of the universe,” create educational programs that combine science and culture, review and reorganize the management authority, and “be a model for how people of the world can live together in harmony.”

Kim said he’d like it to lead to a new management structure for the mountain, currently overseen by UH, that would involve more organizations. He gave Kamehameha Schools and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as examples.

Kim, who supports TMT, said the project is not to blame for conflicts regarding use of the mountain, which he attributes to past mismanagement.

The mayor also said he sees this as being more than about Maunakea, but Hawaii Island’s future, which he hopes to see more focused on education and science.

“This isn’t about Maunakea, this isn’t about the Thirty Meter ‘scope or astronomy, this is about where and how do we get to where we should be or want to go,” Kim said.

When asked for comment, Ige’s office sent the following statement from the governor: “Yes, I support Mayor Kim’s vision for Maunakea and we’re looking at next steps for the future of this cultural treasure.”

A UH spokesman didn’t return a phone call requesting comment by press time.

UH leases 12,000 acres of the mountain from the state.

In response to criticism about its management, it created OMKM based in Hilo in 2000. It has a volunteer board and Native Hawaiian advisory committee.

Kim said UH should be a party to a new management structure, which he calls the “umbrella organization,” but he wants to see the number of seats at the table expanded.

He credited UH for improving management during the past couple of decades but still feels a broader change is needed.

“We can make education and science an important part of our culture here,” Kim said. “And I believe we need to reach out to bring them (scientists) here, but in a right way, which we did not do in the past. And this is what I’m working on.”

The mayor said he did not discuss with the officials plans for addressing protests that could involve people blocking access if construction of TMT resumes.

Some Hawaiians see Maunakea as sacred. Objections to TMT include the mountain’s cultural importance or environmental concerns, as well as the past buildup of observatories.

Protests, which included people blocking Maunakea Access Road, halted grubbing and grading work at the site in 2015.

TMT International Observatory lost its construction permit later that year in the state Supreme Court because of due process violations by the state. It regained the permit last year but has not yet announced a date for resuming the work.

“We’ll do what we have to by law,” Kim said, if there is conflict on the mountain.

“Now let’s work toward how to prevent it.”

Email Tom Callis at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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