Governor Sees Progress In Mauna Kea Talks, But Protest Nears 7th Week

Aug 29, 2019

Gov. David Ige says he’s pleased with progress made so far by Big Island Mayor Harry Kim in engaging the native Hawaiian community in efforts to resolve the conflict on Mauna Kea.

But there’s still no resolution in sight as the protests approaches its seventh week.

Ige told Hawaiʻi Public Radio Wednesday that Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim’s mediation efforts have not gone unnoticed.

"I think itʻs essential to our success, you know, being able to find a safe and peaceful resolution. I think [that] is what everybody in our community wants to see," Ige said.

Mayor Kim has held two meetings with select native Hawaiian community leaders since governor handed the matter over to the mayor a month ago to bring about a resolution to the dispute over construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope near the summit.

Kimʻs meetings have included members of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kamehameha Schools, and the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, to name a few. Both meetings ended with no consensus.

So where will this all go?

"I can tell you point blank where I hope to go, but where we will go I donʻt know. You know, I hope that we can bring people together," Kim said.

But the mayor says coming up with an immediate action plan starts with finding common ground, and that may take time.

"Because there were some that, regardless, have said, 'No, we donʻt want any telescopes up there.'"

TMT has another two years to begin construction under its state permit, and Mauna Kea remains the preferred site, although an alternate location in the Canary Islands has been identified. 

Telescope opponents have been blocking TMTʻs access to the mountain since mid-July and don’t plan on budging. Protest leaders have condemned the mayor's meetings, noting he has not invited representatives from the demonstrators who call themselves kiʻai, or protectors of the mountain.

Kim said he wishes he had more time to resolve the conflict, but time may not be on his side.

"Time is going to be determined by the people who control the decisions of the TMT," he said.

Telescope spokesman Scott Ishikawa says TMT supports Mayor Kim’s efforts in finding a peaceful resolution, but adds time is of the essence.