Hearing Update 12/2
A former judge and lawmaker took the stand on Day 11 of the contested case hearings to discuss measures put in place to maintain Maunakea’s resources and beauty.
Retired state judge and former state legislator Walter Heen testified today in his role as the first director of the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM). This agency is assigned to oversee the natural and cultural resources of the Maunakea Science Reserve.
During his time as OMKM director, Heen said the organization worked with the University of Hawaii in implementing a 2000 master plan meant to provide for protection and preservation of the mountain’s resources and “to reasonably regulate both the public use and the exercise of traditional and customary practices of Native Hawaiians on Maunakea.”
The organization gathered feedback from local astronomers, the Native Hawaiian community and environmentalists in coming up with goals and solutions to protect the Maunakea environment.
One of OMKM’s objectives was to establish control over the commercial tour operators who bring visitors to Maunakea. “Without such control, the tour operators could conduct their activities in a manner that jeopardizes the environment and threatens areas of cultural sensitivity and significance to Native Hawaiians,” Heen said in his testimony. Through the agency’s actions, operational control of the commercial operators was delegated to the state in 2001.
Heen said that regarding Native Hawaiian matters, OMKM established a Native Hawaiian advisory council, “Kahu Ku Mauna” or “Guardians of the Mountain” to provide feedback and balance regarding conflicts between “Western intrusions and preservation of the sacredness of Mauna Kea.”
Heen stepped down as OMKM director in 2001 after implementing the various measures.
Cross-examination of Heen by the contested case parties was completed by this afternoon. The hearings resume on Monday at the Grand Naniloa Hotel and continue next week Tuesday and Thursday.