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State House approves resolution to develop new Mauna Kea management structure

The state House of Representatives today approved a resolution to form a working group that will develop a new management structure for Mauna Kea.

The resolution, which requires the panel to develop recommendations by the end of the year, was approved by a voice vote following debate on the floor.

Rep. David Tarnas (D, Kaupulehu-­Waimea-Halaula), who introduced the resolution in response to Speaker Scott Saiki’s call for a change in management, said the measure will give voice to a growing number of people who have been demanding new oversight of the mountain.

But Rep. Gene Ward (R, Hawaii Kai-Kalama Valley) said it appears the vast majority of the Hawaiian community is opposed to the effort, “so if it’s a way to embrace them, it’s the wrong methodology by which to proceed.”

Ward, who voted no, said he doesn’t believe the working group will be able to resolve the current controversy regarding the Thirty Meter Telescope.

“We can’t pretend its not about the TMT. It’s the elephant in the room,” he said.

But Tarnas and others insisted the measure is only about properly managing the summit of Hawaii’s tallest mountain. They also said Native Hawaiians have stepped forward in support of the effort as well.

According to the resolution, the failure of the university to properly consult with Native Hawaiians has led to mistrust and polarization within the community, a situation that must be reconciled.

The working group would consist of 14 members: seven Native Hawaiian representatives and seven “stakeholders,” including three members of the House and a chairman appointed by the speaker. Other members would represent the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, state Board of Land and Natural Resources, Mauna Kea Observatories and UH Board of Regents.

A concurrent resolution was also approved but the Senate hasn’t taken up the measure. House leadership said they will go forward working group with or without the other chamber.

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