Membership of a working group tasked with developing a plan to restructure the management of Mauna Kea has been finalized, House Speaker Scott Saiki announced Monday at a press conference.

Among the group’s members are representatives of several state agencies, observatory workers, House lawmakers, University of Hawaii officials and opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope, a $2 billion project that stalled most recently in 2019 amid protests on Mauna Kea.

Saiki appointed Rep. Mark Nakashima, whose district includes Mauna Kea, as chairman of the panel. Work is expected to wrap up by December and in time for the 2022 legislative session.

TMT Hilo waterfront with the TMT Mauna Kea Observatories. The tiny white dots on the top of Mauna Kea are the observatories.
A 15-member group tasked with restructuring management on Mauna Kea can get to work with full membership. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Nakashima said most sessions of the working group should be open to the public and will likely be conducted by Zoom or remote meeting technology. The group must still figure out if it needs financial assistance to accomplish its work.

While Nakashima, as well as a majority of the Legislature, supports construction of TMT and hopes to find a way for Hawaiian cultural practices and the telescope to coexist on the mountain, he said he’s not wedded to that idea.

“I’m open eyed moving forward in this effort to try and reach a resolution with the Native Hawaiian community,” Nakashima said.

The 15-member group is comprised of seven Native Hawaiians, three members of the House of Representatives and one member each from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Board of Land and Natural Resources, Mauna Kea Observatories and UH Board of Regents.

The Native Hawaiian Community members include Jocelyn Doane, administrator in the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Community Services; Lui Hokoana, the UH Maui College chancellor; Pualani Kanakaole Kanahele, a cultural leader and scholar; Joshua Lanakila Manguil, founder of the Hawaiian Cultural Center of Hamakua; Brialyn Onodera, an engineering assistant at the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Haleakala; Shane Palacat-Nelsen; a community outreach advocate with OHA; and Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, president of the Hawaiian Civic Club of Hilo.

Kanahele and Wong-Wilson are prominent leaders in the protest against the TMT. They were also among kupuna arrested at the base of the mountain in 2019 while blocking construction. Manguil is also prominent in the protest movement.

Saiki said he wanted the kiai, or protectors, as the protest group calls itself, to have a voice on the new panel. He chose the community members from a list of 53 names and based those selections on experience, community involvement and advocacy.

Additionally, government agencies will have three seats on the board including Sterling Wong (OHA), Robert Masuda (BLNR) and Bonnie Irwin (UH). Rich Matsuda, the interim COO of the W.M. Keck Observatory, will represent astronomers on Mauna Kea.

Saiki also appointed Reps. Ty Cullen and Stacelynn Eli to the panel.

“I really felt strongly that we should appoint Native Hawaiian members to the committee,” Saiki said, adding that he didn’t feel it would be appropriate to appoint himself to the committee.

Rep. David Tarnas, who’s district is adjacent to Mauna Kea, rounds out the group.

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