Two weeks after Thirty Meter Telescope opponents relinquished control of the Maunakea Access Road, both sides are wondering what the next moves will be.
On Dec. 26, the TMT opponents — who call themselves kia‘i, or protectors of Maunakea, a sacred site to some Native Hawaiians — announced they would move their tents off the access road for the first time since July, as part of a deal with Mayor Harry Kim that promised no TMT construction would take place until at least the end of February.
Since then, Kim has met with Gov. David Ige and TMT board members Henry Yang and Saku Tsuneta in Hilo this week to discuss their next actions, but what those actions will be is unclear.
Kim said Yang and Tsuneta extended appreciation for resolving the access road issue so quickly — Ige had only pulled state enforcement from the area one week before the deal was made — but wanted to know what will happen next.
“They know that the real work begins now,” Kim said. “The goal is to get people together for a conversation.”
Kim explained that, while he dislikes the term “working group,” it is a fair description of his intentions. Kim is scheduling more meetings with Ige, other state officials and community members to be part of ongoing discussions about the future of Maunakea.
However, one group that has not been a part of the meetings so far has been the protesters themselves.
Protest leader Noe Noe Wong-Wilson — to whom Kim directly sent the terms of his deal on Dec. 26 — said she has had no communication with the mayor’s office since last month.
“I doubt very much that he has met with any of us,” Wong-Wilson said.
While Wong-Wilson said she does not believe the lack of communication indicates that the mayor or TMT will renege on their deal, she reiterated that the kia‘i remain as committed as ever to stopping TMT from ever being built on Maunakea, without any compromise.
“I have to have hope that compromise is still possible,” Kim said. “I still believe that astronomy on Maunakea can still be good for the community. But I also have to acknowledge that we’ve made mistakes.”
Kim restated his commitment that TMT will make no attempts to ascend the mountain until the end of February.
“I am trying to now to get the TMT board … to agree to an extension of that deadline,” Kim said.
On Dec. 26, he said he would try to extend the deadline as long as necessary to continue the discussions.
TMT spokesman Scott Ishikawa said he cannot comment on any private meetings attended by TMT officials.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.