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As UH seeks input on Mauna Kea master plan, some Native Hawaiians feel their voices aren’t being heard

Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 10:48 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 9, 2021 at 11:58 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a nearly two-year pandemic pause in the Thirty Meter Telescope battle, tension is rising again as the University of Hawaii looks to finalize its master plan for Mauna Kea.

UH calls the proposal “E O I Ka Leo,” meaning “Listen to the Voice,” but those who call themselves protectors of Mauna Kea don’t feel like their voices are being heard.

“We don’t give our consent, we reject this plan that the University of Hawaii has put forth for the management of Mauna Kea,” said Healani Sonoda-Pale of Ka Lāhui Hawai’i Kōmike Kalai’āina.

Dozens of people gathered at UH Manoa on Friday to protest the university’s master draft plan for Mauna Kea, which covers a 20 year span and supports the building of the TMT.

UH says the new plan reduced the proposed number of telescopes from 15 to nine by the end of 2033 — and the decommissioning has already begun.

Doug Simons, director of the UH Institute for Astronomy, said in a public forum on Wednesday that whether the TMT is built or not, it has no bearing on the master plan.

“Nobody knows because they’re funding challenges ahead for TMT and the master plan is resilient to either outcome for TMT,” said Simons. “It was designed to be responsive to different outcomes that nobody could predict today.”

It’s been more than 2 years since the mass protests on Mauna Kea led to dozens of arrests and put the project on hold, and now that UH is seeking input on its master plan, some Native Hawaiians criticize the process.

“The comments that they are collecting are done in a way that is not transparent,” said Sonoda-Pale. “Nor do we know like, how many people are submitting comments, we don’t know what comments are for or against it.”

“Clearly there have been a lot of vocal voices opposing UH, opposing TMT, opposing astronomy from the Native Hawaiian Community,” said Executive Director Greg Chun of the UH Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship.

“But I have to say equally there are Native Hawaiians who are supportive of us.”

Sam King of IMUA TMT is one of the native Hawaiians who support UH.

“And so we can all agree that providing high level scientific academic opportunities for our keiki is important,” said King.

The public has through October 26 to provide comments about the Maunakea Master Plan.

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