Pōhaku ʻeho on Mauna Kea appear reddish-orange in the moonlight contrasting with snowcapped puʻu in the distance. Protecting the sanctity of Mauna Kea now and for the future is our collective kuleana. – Photo: Andrew Richard Hara

When the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) filed a Circuit Court lawsuit on Jan. 17, 2024, challenging the legality and constitutionality of Act 255, it took many in the community by surprise.

Signed into law in July 2022, Act 255 established the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority (MKSOA). Most of the 11 members of MKSOA are Native Hawaiian, so OHA’s move seemed somehow counterintuitive.

However, it is important that our lāhui understands that by establishing MKSOA, Act 255 essentially makes MKSOA responsible for the management of Mauna Kea – and in doing so, releases the state and UH from being held accountable for their mismanagement of the Mauna for the past 60 years.

OHA finds this unacceptable.

The agency expressed serious concerns about this when the legislation was being heard, and OHA testified against Act 255 before it was signed into law. In fact, in 2022, the state attempted to have OHA’s 2017 Mauna Kea lawsuit against them rendered moot and dismissed, absolving them of the accountability OHA sought in its original lawsuit.

Thus, the 2024 lawsuit seeks to repeal Act 255 ahead of the scheduled July 2024 hearing of OHA’s Mauna Kea Lawsuit that would hold the state and UH accountable for its longstanding, well-documented mismanagement of Mauna Kea, and force the state to terminate UH’s general lease for the mountain for breaching the terms of the lease agreement.

For more information visit: www.oha.org/maunakea