A recent public meeting to discuss the University of Hawaii’s future plans for Maunakea failed to win the confidence of some Native Hawaiian activists.
UH hosted a “virtual public forum” on YouTube on Wednesday to discuss an updated draft of the university’s Maunakea master plan, which sets out the institution’s intentions for the Mauna summit lands over the past 20 years. coming years.
Participants were able to submit questions about the master plan by email in advance for the UH panelists to respond to.
The master plan, while titled “EOI Ka Leo (Listen to the Voice),” did not address the many concerns of indigenous Hawaiians about UH’s management of summit lands, indigenous Hawaiian activists said on Friday.
Shelley Muneoka, board member of activist group KAHEA, said she was “not really happy” with the forum as a method of community engagement, reiterating the group’s complaints at the forum that the process was not transparent.
Wednesday’s forum was tightly moderated, Muneoka said, with panelists able to select and prepare for questions in advance. Additionally, inline comments for the video have been disabled.
“This is not a valid dialogue,” Muneoka said. “It helps to be able to hear the comments of others on such a large document in real time, to hear what is on the minds of others. “
During the forum, panelists answered some of KAHEA’s questions – the only questions where the source was named.
Some of these questions directly challenged the lack of transparency, to which Greg Chun, executive director of the UH-Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship, responded by saying the format was necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed for discussion. to stay on topic.
But Muneoka said she was not convinced by Chun’s rationale, saying countless organizations had to switch to online discussions during the pandemic while still allowing community participation.
Muneoka also said that while Chun said that UH does not avoid questions that he does not want to address, there is no way of knowing if this is true, as the full list of questions submitted to the forum has not been published.
But no matter how effective the forum is, activists said the new draft master plan already indicates that UH has not listened to native Hawaiians.
“They will never take us seriously,” said Healani Sonoda-Pale, spokesperson for the Ka Lahui Hawaii Political Action Community. “(The thirty-meter telescope) will always be more important to them than to us.”
Sonoda-Pale said the position of Ka Lahui and other activist groups has been clear for years: Development of the Maunakea summit land must end.
“In a perfect world, we would like a plan calling for no further development of the mauna,” Sonoda-Pale said. “But our voices were not heard in any UH process. They named it “Listen to the voice”, but the point is, they don’t listen. “
Although Chun said on Wednesday that there would be further opportunities for public comment on the master plan, Sonoda-Pale was skeptical of the value of future forums.
“Any plan for the mauna’s future must come from Kanaka Maoli,” Sonoda-Pale said. “We don’t agree with UH’s plan, but they haven’t given us the opportunity to express it publicly.”
Email Michael Brestovansky at [email protected]