OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

OHA statement on dismantling of a small structure on DHHL lands at Maunakea

Statement of OHA Chair Colette Machado; Trustee Dan Ahuna, chair of the OHA Boardʻs Ad Hoc Committee on Maunakea; and OHA Interim Chief Executive Officer Sylvia Hussey

HONOLULU (Sept. 6, 2019) — State law enforcement’s swift dismantling today of a small wooden structure built by protectors earlier this week brings into sharp focus the longstanding and particularly abhorrent double standard the state uses to enforce land use laws against Native Hawaiians as opposed to others.

Law enforcement removed the small hale, which was located on lands controlled by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands at the base of Maunakea, because it was an unpermitted structure. Yet the state has a long history of expressly allowing unpermitted and unauthorized astronomy structures that were far larger and located in far more environmentally- and culturally-sensitive areas of the mountain.

Examples include:

The first three telescopes built on the summit of Maunakea failed to apply for a conservation district use permit and therefore were unpermitted for at least six years.

In 1976, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources discovered an additional unauthorized structure. While the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) approved an $85,000 fine against the building contractor, that fine appears to have never been collected.

In 1982, BLNR approved the Caltech telescope permit with an explicit requirement that no further astronomy development occur until the University of Hawaii completed a new master plan. Two months later, BLNR approved a new telescope before the master plan was completed, thereby endorsing a violation of the Caltech permit.

In 1997, BLNR approved four after-the-fact subleases for telescopes already built or in the process of being built on the summit.

This selective enforcement re-enforces the State Auditor’s finding in 1998 that the state and the University of Hawaiʻi manage Maunakea for astronomy at the expense of everything and everyone else. Moreover, the particularly offensive way todayʻs selective enforcement was carried out, which included the wholly unnecessary sawing of a Hawaiian flag, is deeply troubling, and further adds to the trauma of the Native Hawaiian people and could have escalated an already tense situation.

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