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Most oppose telescope during public comment session

Hawaii Tribune-Herald - See Original Post HERE

By TOM CALLIS Hawaii Tribune-Herald

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents listened to more than four hours of testimony Sunday from speakers opposing the Thirty Meter Telescope, with many Native Hawaiians expressing their spiritual and cultural connection to Mauna Kea where the $1.4 billion observatory is planned to be built.

The meeting at UH-Hilo was a continuation of a public comment session April 16 that ended after 61 people spoke, with all but one speaking against the telescope.

Another 43 spoke Sunday with only five in favor of the project. Nearly 300 attended the meeting in the performing arts center.

As with the earlier meeting, testifiers spoke of the mountain as being a temple and a place too sacred for many of them to visit, at least not without following the proper protocol.

“We oppose it (TMT) because it’s a violation of our religious rights,” said Ululani Poepoe. “TMT continues the raping of our sacred sites.”

The April 16 meeting was initially to allow the regents to hear a report from the Office of Mauna Kea Management Board. A UH spokesman said there wasn’t time for the briefing Sunday after testimony was heard.

The 13,796-foot-tall mountain is seen as the meeting place of the sky god Wakea and Earth mother Papa, who were the parents of the first ancestor of the Hawaiian people. A testifier also said they see the mountain itself as an ancestor.

Included in that spirituality is respect for “aina,” or land.

Kualii Camara, while being overcome by emotion, told the regents that “aloha aina” means having deep respect and humility for nature “with the understanding that everything we need is provided by our aina.”

The TMT, capable of seeing 13 billion light years away, would be 14th telescope on the mountain. It also will be its largest at 180 feet tall and will sit on the mountain’s north flank, making it visible mostly from Waimea.

Some testifiers called for the removal of all observatories after UH’s master lease for the summit area expires in 2033.

The review process for the project included an environmental impact statement and approval from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, and other organizations, such as the UH board.

Newton Chu of Hilo said in his written testimony that he is proud that UH is recognized internationally for astronomy.

“The pursuit of knowledge is one of humankind’s greatest endeavors,” he said.

Business groups also submitted testimony in favor of TMT.

“TMT is being designed as a zero waste discharge facility, with all waste securely transported off the summit,” wrote Debbie Baker of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce. “This ensures it will not impact the quality of the island’s drinking water.”

The board received 2,010 pieces of written testimony. Of that, 1,901 was against the telescope, according to a UH spokesman.

Testifiers included Hawaiian students and faculty at UH-Hilo and Hawaii Community College.

Rosa Motta, a HawCC student, said she was upset with UH’s support for the TMT.

“Look at our earth, look at the times we’re in,” she said. “This is not what we need.”

Davin Vincente, a UH biology professor, said science should be done with respect for the environment.

“As a Native Hawaiian scientist, I want to understand the natural world,” he said, adding that should be done without “negatively impacting the natural world.”

The testimony was for information only and the board was not planning to take action on the subject.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaii

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