Big Island mayor pitches ‘way forward’ for Mauna Kea with pledges to address protesters’ concerns

Published: Sep. 30, 2019 at 9:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor, University of Hawaii and others are making a series of pledges designed to offer “a way forward” for Mauna Kea and a resolution to the TMT protest.

One central pledge: The governor said he would restructure Mauna Kea management to ensure representation by the Native Hawaiian community and county government.

The state also pledged to increase the number of properties available to Department of Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries, including by offering agricultural awards, tiny homes and other options.

And the University of Hawaii said it’s committed to building a “cultural facility” at Mauna Kea to honor Hawaiian history and knowledge, and a cultural practitioners site at the summit.

[Read more: ‘Standing up for our rights’: 28 of those arrested at TMT protest plead not guilty]

[Read more: Neil deGrasse Tyson on TMT: What would ancient Polynesian navigators think?]

The pledges were part of a document released by Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim on Monday, and pitched as a plan to address many of the chief concerns from Thirty Meter Telescope protesters.

Hundred of activists have been camped at the base of the Mauna Kea Access Road for 78 days, blocking construction equipment for the $1.4 billion telescope from getting to the summit.

Protest leaders said the mayor’s “way forward” missed the mark, and proves that they aren’t being heard.

Those that call themselves Mauna Kea “protectors" have previously said they’ll only end their blockade if TMT is called off.

“We never had high hopes for this plan,” Kahookai Kanuha, one of the protest leaders, told Hawaii News Now. “Their solution is to tell us what we should be doing, rather than to listen and heed the calls the pleas of the people.”

Supporters of the project, meanwhile, applauded the plan.

Gordon Squires, Thirty Meter Telescope vice president for external relations, said the pathway to a resolution in the conflict “has been unclear” and “requires leadership.”

'Mayor Harry Kim’s ‘Way Forward’ addresses a number of the larger issues beyond TMT for which Maunakea has become a flashpoint, including issues related to self-determination and management of Maunakea," Squires said. "We are open to working with Mayor Kim and others on these larger issues and getting to the next step as soon as possible.”

Kim is calling his plan "beyond a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ of the TMT project. This is about asking Hawaii’s people to come together and finding a path to forward in a good way.”

He adds, in a forward to the document, “When respectfully integrated with a comprehensive understanding of Maunakea and Hawaiian culture, astronomy can be such a catalyst for positive and transformational changes in Hawaii.”

This story will be updated.

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