`Ano`ai kakou… On May 26, 2015, Governor David Ige announced that he would “protect the rights of the builders” of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. He also admitted that the state has failed the mountain in many ways and he wants to change the management of the summit to give more consideration to culture and natural resources. (Star Advertiser, 5/27/15)
The Governor has asked UH, which subleases the summit area from the state, to make ten changes to improve its stewardship of Mauna Kea. His requests included making the TMT the last telescope on the mountain; getting rid of at least 25 percent of the telescopes by the time TMT is ready for operation in the 2020s; and returning more than 10,000 acres not being used for astronomy.
Governor Ige’s proposal provides us a positive first step in revising the way Mauna Kea is safe-guarded, but he needs to go much further. The 11,300 acres of land within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve are public land trust lands classified under section 5(b) of the Admissions Act. The revenues from public trust lands must be dedicated to specific purposes including the betterment of Native Hawaiians.
OHA receives a portion of revenues generated from the use of these public land trust lands. The State should ensure that OHA and its beneficiaries receive adequate compensation for any future subleases.
To avoid possible fiscal impacts to the UH’s educational mission, any proposed general lease for Mauna Kea lands should require UH to charge a more appropriate rent for the sublease or use of such lands. This would ensure that OHA beneficiaries and the State receive appropriate compensation for the use of these public land trust lands, and ensures that UH also receives adequate revenues to support its broader educational mission.
UH should be required to conduct a financial review of all public land trust revenue it receives. This will help to identify gaps in revenue from public land trust lands, as well as clarify what revenues may be generated from specific lands, such as Mauna Kea.
The state should also require UH to develop a Master Plan that will return Mauna Kea to its original, pristine state once all of the current telescope leases expire and the lands are returned to the people of Hawaii.
Finally, UH’s authority to manage public trust lands must be reevaluated because of its continual abuse and mismanagement of our precious lands. The state and the legislature should revisit the autonomy that they have given to the UH. At the very least, they need to pull back some of its power. They frequently complain about crumbling infrastructure and the need to raise tuition. It’s should be clear to everyone that UH is not a fiscally sustainable institution, and such a desperate organization should not be in charge of Mauna Kea.
UH has failed to live up to its commitments and it is OHA’s responsibility as advocate for our beneficiaries to take whatever actions are necessary, legal or otherwise, to make things right on their behalf.
The mountain means many different things for many different people, but the bottom line is if you’ can’t manage it properly then the state should give it to someone else who can.