Possible new funding for TMT reignites vocal opposition at first public hearing in Hawaii Island

The National Science Foundation is looking at investing in the controversial project.
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 9:45 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 12, 2022 at 10:15 PM HST
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HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - The National Science Foundation is considering whether to make an investment for the Thirty Meter Telescope.

And that has brought vocal opponents of the controversial telescope to the forefront once again.

A Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll in June found 58% of Hawaii residents support the TMT, while 25% were opposed.

But the critics remain very passionate.

“No. You cannot build anything on the mountain. Absolutely not,” said Native Hawaiian practitioner Pua Kanakaole Kanahele in a meeting in Hilo on Monday.

It was the first of four in-person public meetings held on Hawaii Island this week by the National Science Foundation.

The foundation said it wanted to go beyond the legal requirements of its environmental review for the TMT and give the community a chance to comment.

“Go home! Stop desecrating our places,” said OHA Hawaii Island trustee Mililani Trask.

“You want to call our bluff when we call for those to come to shut down your construction?” she added.

Trask was among the 38 kupuna arrested for obstructing Mauna Kea Access Road in July 2019, an action that stalled the start of construction.

“Next time around, more will come,” Trask told the NSF representatives. “Mark my words, mark my words. You want to waste millions? Do it!”

The NSF acknowledges that construction is a sensitive issue and requires understanding various viewpoints.

But some say those viewpoints have been ignored over the years.

“They have deigned to talk to Native Hawaiians and other islands in an effort to manufacture the illusion of consent, but have proved themselves incapable of meaningful compromise,” said Volcano resident Tom Peek. He asked the foundation to withdraw its support of TMT.

Whomever is elected as governor will inherit the conflict on Mauna Kea and will need to have a strategy beforehand.

“Would I send someone in for arrests? The answer is no because you actually have to build these projects in a way that both parties are accepting it,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green during a Hawaii News Now “Job Interview” segment.

“I would not arrest keiki. I would not arrest kupuna,” said Democratic gubernatorial primary challenger U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, who has said he opposes the project.

“Obviously, (when) you break the law there’s consequences to that. But I think as governor you’re also the leader of the state, and you should be able to step in and intervene before problems like this occur,” said Republican candidate Duke Aiona.

Meanwhile, opponents vow a renewed effort to block construction.

“Come back and we’ll have 50,000 and hundreds of kupuna,” Trask said.

The foundation’s timeline calls for a draft environmental impact statement next year, followed by more public input. A final statement is planned for 2024.

However, the National Science Foundation said it could decide to not go forward at any time.

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