HILO, Hawaii – Minutes before the start of the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case hearing, participants gathered outside the Crown Room of Hilo’s Grand Naniloa Hotel for a customary prayer circle.
At 9 a.m., the conch shell was blown in unison with others at different locations on Hawaii Island who are joined in opposition to the university’s permit application to place the $1.4 billion observatory on Mauna Kea.
This is the second contested case hearing to be held for the TMT project.
The state granted the University of Hawaii a conservation district use permit in 2011, pending the outcome of the first contested case held later that year. In 2014, the land board also approved the UH sublease to TMT. In December 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court halted the project and vacated the permit, ruling that the state did not follow proper procedure in awarding the permit to the university. The matter was remanded back to the land board, which opted to try again with another contested case hearing.
“We trust and believe,” petitioner Pua Case said outside the hearing room, “after we were here the last time, we had the hoʻailona from Poliʻahu,” in reference to the snow that dusted the summit of Mauna Kea earlier this week.
Case shared a bottle of water “from the rain and snow” of Mauna Kea with her fellow participants, as well as salt in memory of their kupuna, the brave voyagers who first crossed the sea to Hawaiʻi centuries ago.
There are over 25 participants in the TMT contested case hearing, some single persons, others representing organizations. Three parties – The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, TMT International Organization, and PUEO (Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities Inc) – are in favor of building the observatory on Mauna Kea.