Years after TMT protests, governor signs bill into law creating new management for Mauna Kea

The University of Hawaii will no longer be in charge of managing Mauna Kea.
Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 10:34 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 8, 2022 at 10:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige signed a bill into law Thursday authorizing a new management to oversee Mauna Kea.

The University of Hawaii will no longer be in charge of managing Mauna Kea.

Instead, it will be a governor-appointed 11-member stewardship and oversight authority.

Astronomers and members of the Native Hawaiian community said it’s an opportunity to restart and work together as Mauna Kea becomes the central focus of the authority.

Cultural Practitioner Dr. Noe Noe Wong-Wilson said she is excited Native Hawaiians and cultural practitioners have seats at the decision-making table, but she also said she will never forget what it took to get to this point.

Wong-Wilson recalled the 38 kupuna who were arrested on nearly three years ago for obstructing Mauna Kea Access Road.

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“It’s unfortunate that things had to just get to a really sad place in our history,” said Wong-Wilson. “Our job now is to make sure we put the right people in place that have like minds, as the rest of us that will make sure that they do protect this national treasure.”

In a statement, the University of Hawaii said they’re committed to working with the new authority to ensure a smooth transition.

Officials said the change does not affect the development of the contested Thirty Meter Telescope, which has not moved forward since the protests.

“I don’t think I can speculate on what this means for the future of TMT,” said Mary Beth Laychak, Director of Strategic communications for the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.

Laychak added “When we look at this, it’s really about astronomy holistically. TMT may or may not be a part of that, but as we move forward, you know, this is about astronomy in Hawaii.”

The bill declares astronomy as a state policy, which helps create jobs for the state.

“The funding agencies, as I said, need to make a long-term commitment to these facilities, and that’s the steady income for Hawaii,” said Andrew Adamson, associate director of Hawaii site for Gemini Observatory.

In addition, the new law increases educational opportunities.

Laychak said the change can empower every student to see themselves in STEM career pathways.

“It isn’t any more pro-astronomy as it is pro-Mauna and I think that’s the balance,” said Wong-Wilson.

In a statement, the TMT International Observatory said they support the stewardship and look forward to working with the state.

We are grateful that support of astronomy is now a policy of the state. TIO will work with the new authority to advance programs that support astronomy and education and are in harmony with the culture and environment of this special site.

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