Business coalition urges Governor to provide “safe passage” for - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Business coalition urges Governor to provide “safe passage” for TMT construction

MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) -

It's been nearly one year since protesters disrupted what would have been the ground-breaking ceremony for the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. To this day, no construction has taken place on the $1.4 billion dollar project. Several court decisions have determined the 18-story telescope is properly permitted and can move forward, but there has been no attempt to send construction crews to the summit since more than 700 protesters blocked them from reaching the site in June. Many have speculated TMT officials are waiting on a state Supreme Court verdict challenging the project's permitting process, but TMT project leadership has only said they're still working with all parties to determine the appropriate time to resume construction.

In the meantime, a full page advertisement appeared in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser over the weekend featuring a letter from a coalition of local businesses urging the Governor to take action to make the project happen.

14 local organizations representing more than 2,500 businesses statewide signed the letter -- including the Kona-Kohala, Hawai'i Island, Maui, Moloka'i and Kailua Chambers of Commerce.

In short, the letter pleads with Governor David Ige to "make it possible for the Thirty Meter Telescope to begin its permitted construction under safe passage". The request says "faulty law enforcement surrounding Mauna Kea is fostering tension, aggression, racism and business uncertainty. Ambiguity surrounding the rule of law has prompted a poor economic climate."

"I think the biggest concern and the reason we rallied together as one larger business voice is that it's not just a Hawai'i Island issue, it's a statewide issue. If TMT does not come to fruition, the economic impact would be $20 million per year in local spending loss and $10 million per year loss in local income and the absence of more than 275 jobs," said Kirstin Kahaloa, the Executive Director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce.

Governor David Ige says he met with representatives from the coalition of businesses last week and re-affirmed his support for TMT.

"I am committed to assure that the TMT project as permitted has access to execute their plan," Ige said.

Though he wouldn't reveal specifics or whether that would require the assistance of the National Guard as many have been speculating, the Governor did admit state authorities will need time to assemble on Hawai'i Island once TMT officials decide they want to return to the mountain.

"We know that we need to have more resources in order to enforce the rules and the laws that will be required to provide for safe access," said Ige.

TMT protesters say the businesses behind the letter come from a perspective that money is the bottom line, but they say protecting Mauna Kea as a sacred Native Hawaiian space is what truly matters -- which is why they're calling the last year in which they have successfully delayed construction a victory.

"It means that we are successful, but it doesn't mean that we're done. It does not mean that we have won. It just means that up until this point we are doing what we set out to do. It's a proud time. I think that we need to celebrate this, we need to recognize this -- that people who care for their land and who know the truth, who know their history and understand and truly live their culture -- that they can make a difference," said Aloha Aina advocate Kahookahi Kanuha.

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