Hawaii Mayor Kim says his plan includes building TMT, but that is a nonstarter for protesters
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim confirmed Thursday that his long-awaited blueprint for the future of Mauna Kea will include a plan to build the Thirty Meter Telescope.
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HILO >> Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim confirmed Thursday that his long-awaited blueprint for the future of Mauna Kea will include a plan to build the Thirty Meter Telescope near the summit, but the TMT opponents said that is still unacceptable to them.
During testimony in Hilo before the Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees, Kim said his concept is for “Mauna Kea to be a symbol of nations working together for the pursuit of peace and harmony, a beacon of hope and discovery for this world. This is not just about science. It is about combining culture and science.”
Thousands of people have participated in the protests against the proposed telescope, and TMT opponents consider the project to be a desecration of the mountain, which some Hawaiians believe to be sacred. TMT supporters say the project has the legal right to proceed.
Gov. David Ige announced July 23 he had invited Kim to try to find a way to resolve the impasse over the $1.4 billion TMT project. It has been stalled for more than two months by opponents who are blocking Mauna Kea Access Road to try to prevent the start of construction.
Kaho‘okahi Kanuha, a leader of the protests on Mauna Kea, said Thursday that if Kim’s plan includes TMT, “I’m not sure how he believes that to be representative of the people, and how that would in any way work towards finding a solution to the current issue, which is the building of TMT.”
Kanuha said the protesters, who call themselves “protectors” of the mountain, will consider Kim’s plan, “but if it has to include TMT, there’s no way that works.” Kanuha and others have said they will not compromise, and say the TMT will not be built.
Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, another protest leader and Hawaiian elder, said that any plan that includes TMT “is not my idea of a solution.”
She said she expects to meet with Kim soon to learn more, but said Kim told her early on that TMT is “on the table. So, it’s been our position from the beginning that as long as they’re on the table, we’re not willing to engage in this plan.”
Kim told the trustees that he hopes to complete his proposal this week, and said the draft he held in his hand as he addressed the trustees was version 109, “and it’s not the last.”
The document calls for a cultural center, educational programs “that connect the wonders of science to the minds of children and adults of the world,” and a new management authority that gives “strong deference to the voices of the host island and the Hawaiian community.”
Kim did not specifically mention TMT during his presentation to the trustees, but said in an interview after his presentation that the telescope will be part of the package.
When asked how he will get that past the objections by the TMT opponents, Kim replied, “If I knew the answer, I’d tell you. I’m trying to get past it, I’ve been talking to them throughout.”
Quoting from his draft plan, Kim told the trustees, “This presentation is beyond a yes or no of the TMT project. This is about asking Hawaii’s people to come together and find a path to go forward in a good way.”
Kim said the Hokule‘a voyaging canoe gave birth to a Hawaiian cultural renaissance, and “in recent months Mauna Kea has added to this remarkable Hawaiian cultural renaissance, the Hawaiians’ identity and the pride of being Hawaiian, and with this, the reverence and sacredness for the total environment.”
“When respectfully integrated with a comprehensive understanding of Mauna Kea and Hawaiian culture, astronomy can be such a catalyst for positive and transformational changes in Hawaii,” Kim said. It also can be “the leverage for not only Mauna Kea issues, but to understand and address the wrongs of the past to make us a better people and place.”
Kanuha was critical of the process Ige and Kim used to get to this point, describing it as “irresponsible.”
“From my understanding, the governor’s decision to pass it over to Harry was to have someone on the ground, in the community, who has relationship with these people, but yet in all of these conversations they’ve failed to include the people who’ve brought this issue to the forefront,” Kanuha said.
“It is what it is. I think this is what we thought it would come to in the end, was them having a plan that still included TMT, that continued to neglect our ideas, our thoughts and our beliefs and our stance, and so we continue,” he said.