Price tag for the government’s response to the TMT protest: $8M and growing

Updated: Oct. 3, 2019 at 10:20 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - State and county government agencies have now spent more than $8 million responding to the ongoing Thirty Meter Telescope protest at Mauna Kea.

Hawaii County says it has spent $4.4 million so far. The vast majority of the costs ― $4.1 million ― were for law enforcement personnel.

Meanwhile, the state Attorney General’s Office said state agencies have racked up $3.46 million in costs.

The Maui Police Department put the cost of overtime for its officers at $68,000, while the Honolulu Police Department said it cost $162,000 to send officers to the Big Island.

Meanwhile, the protest at the base of Mauna Kea is now in its 80th day, and there’s no sign of a resolution in the short-term.

“I blame the protesters. The protesters have a responsibility. They created this situation. They know what they are doing. They are practiced at it and they need to take responsiblity for it,” said Samuel Wilder King II, Imua TMT executive director.

Those who call themselves protectors of Mauna Kea say they’ll stand their ground for as long as it takes and say Hawaii taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for TMT and security.

“It’s cray cray. This is crazy. Why are we doing this? It’s an insult to the injury,” said Kealoha Pisciotta, President of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou.

Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder Hawaii County Council member, was also shocked by the figure.

“There are more officers on Mauna Kea that you see patrolling a few miles of a state highway than there are in the entire district of Puna which is the size of Oahu and there’s no public safety concern that warrants a response of this magnitude,” he said.

Supporters of the Thirty Meter Telescope, meanwhile, say the $1.4 billion project has gotten all the necessary approvals and construction should be allowed to proceed.

The state’s costs included:

  • $1.2 million for the Attorney General
  • $1.1 million for the National Guard
  • $601,000 for DOCARE
  • And $558,000 for Public Safety

“Could that be put toward better uses? Sure. Is the continuation of astronomy in the state of Hawaii still a worthy pursuit? Yes. So one of the things that’s happening is there’s going to be a balancing of all of these needs,” said state Rep. Della Au Belatti, House majority leader.

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