Mayor asks TMT to delay construction for two more months

  • Mayor Harry Kim.

The current truce between the Thirty Meter Telescope and its opponents might be extended by another two months at the request of Mayor Harry Kim.

In late December, Kim approached leaders of the anti-TMT protest with an offer to reopen the Maunakea Access Road — which had at the time been closed and occupied by protesters for more than five months — and a promise from TMT officials that no attempts to build the observatory would take place until at least the end of February.

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With the end of the month less than two weeks away, Kim said he has worked to try to extend the grace period, to give both sides an opportunity to find common ground and reach some kind of mutual agreement.

“Of course, my authority over the whole thing is really quite limited,” Kim said. “But I have asked TMT to extend the period by another two months.”

Kim said he is awaiting a response from TMT officials, adding that his proposal for a two-month extension was discussed at a meeting of the TMT board last week. Although the results of that meeting have not been disclosed to him, Kim said he believes he will get an official answer from TMT by the end of the week.

Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, one of the leaders of the protest, said she hopes the period can be extended, in order to give TMT officials more time to consider building elsewhere.

“I think it would be beneficial for all of us if it gets extended,” Wong-Wilson said. “The best case for us is for law enforcement to continue to stand down. … We’ll remain on the mountain, and it will give them time to reconsider what they’re doing.”

Wong-Wilson said the protesters — who call themselves protectors of Maunakea and oppose the construction of TMT because they consider the mountain sacred — have not been privy to any of the mayor’s discussions regarding the extension of the truce.

Without an official answer from TMT — a TMT spokesperson was unable to provide a statement on Monday — the truce will come to an end after Feb. 29, although neither Kim nor Wong-Wilson were confident about what that means.

“There’s no answer at this point for what happens after the 29th,” Kim said.

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While Wong-Wilson said she does not expect TMT will attempt construction immediately on March 1, she said the protesters may begin to return to “high alert,” as they were during the five-month standoff last year.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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