Mismanagement of Mauna Kea – Nothing Has Changed


Dan Ahuna, Vice Chair, Trustee, Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau I wrote the article below in April of 2015, unfortunately two years later, much is still the same. The State and UH must be accountable for the mismanagement of Mauna Kea.

Hawaiians Do Not Oppose Science

As we bear witness to the largest awakening that has occurred amongst our people since the 1970s, I am filled with pride and hope that we will see an awakening of all those who live in and love Hawaiʻi to recognize that Hawaiians are not second class citizens in their own home. That what is good for Hawaiians is good for all of Hawaiʻi. The fearlessness of the young Warriors camped out on top of Mauna a Wākea have sparked an awakening in new generations of Hawaiians to rise up and stand for what is PONO.

It is critical that the message of PONO (balance) is at the center of this struggle. Local media and the science community have and will continue to frame this struggle as Hawaiians vs. Science. Hawaiians vs. Progress. This is not accurate in any way. I have yet to hear any of those individuals leading this effort say that they are against the science behind the telescope. What they are opposed to is the process by which the telescope has been allowed to begin construction and they are opposed to the fact that UH and organizations backing the telescopes over the years have not held up their end of the deal and are not acting as good stewards of the mountain. I have yet to hear responses that dispose of these arguments.

There are 13 telescopes atop the Mauna now. The agreements governing the maintenance and decommission processes for those telescopes have not been adhered to or properly enforced. Yet, the largest and most intrusive of all the telescopes has been forced through and construction was given the green light even while legal challenges are pending. The crux of the battle as I see it is that the Warriors have called foul on the State and UH. I am in agreement with them, we saw what happened with the Super Ferry when processes are undermined. In that instance, what very well might have been a benefit to the State travel industry was stopped in its tracks when the PEOPLE cried foul and demanded the processes be followed. When will decision makers learn that this type of political gaming will no longer fly in today’s age of instant information accessibility? I applaud the young Warriors for stepping up. I applaud them for their tenacity and perseverance and am PROUD to support their efforts.

This struggle also has another component. Balanced growth and development. This generation has been raised reading and hearing about the adverse environmental impacts of unchecked growth of industry and development. They have a different set of priorities than the past couple generations, mainly, that the bottom-line benefit of such projects shall not be based solely on monetary profit, but that social and cultural margins must also be accounted for. Thus, the emphasis is to focus on sustainable growth, investment in clean projects that minimize environmental and cultural impacts while maximizing social benefit. There is lacking in this current project the social benefit element for Hawaiʻi. A few hundred temporary construction jobs and less than 150 permanent jobs, none of which are guaranteed to local residents, are not worth the impending uproar that this project will cause.

Mauna a Wākea is a global spiritual icon that represents Mana and Pono not only for Kanaka Maoli but for all native indigenous peoples around the world. The largest geological feature on our planet has become the focal point for all peoples to unite.

Note: Trustee columns represent the views of individual trustees and may not reflect the official positions adopted by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.