(BIVN) – “Why are we stuck?” posed Greg Chun, the executive director of Maunakea stewardship at the University of Hawaiʻi, to a gathering of University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo faculty and students on Thursday.
Chun, who is also a member of the Mauna Kea Management Board, provided some answers during his presentation.
Chun said that everything in Hawaiʻi changed in mid-July, after police arrested 38 people on the Mauna Kea Access Road in an unsuccessful attempt to clear the way for Thirty Meter Telescope construction crews. TMT opponents have held the base of the road ever since.
The University of Hawaiʻi holds the master lease for the summit of Mauna Kea, and is subleasing the land to the TMT, which has been given the Notice to Proceed with the project.
Part of the problems, Chun said, is “the target that we’re shooting for is extremely small” as far as trying to balance multiple values on the mountain. Also, he said “the ecosystem for public discourse and policy development in this state is not set up to solve these kinds of problems.”
“Everybody is right,” Chun declared. “The kiaʻi are right, for any of a number of reasons. The Nationalists are right – yeah, we haven’t totally addressed the injustices of the overthrow. The state is right. Yes, sitting in the middle of the road and blocking a public access is illegal. TMT is right, they did everything they were supposed to do so they should have the right to move forward. One of the reasons why we’re stuck is because everybody’s right.”
Chun said there has been a lot of listening that has gone on, and he detailed some of the statements he has heard in recent months.
Chun also listed some ideas for the future, like creating a new ownership model for observatories, a new management structure for the Astronomy Precinct, and several ideas that proposing greater Native Hawaiian involvement.
Chun said he has also heard requests to “invoke makahiki”, and asking “TMT and the hoa paio to take a temporary delay.”
“The future of astronomy will be defined by community,” Chun said. “That’s worldwide, that’s not just here. A very simple reason. The best places to do ground-based astronomy are mountain tops. Mountain tops are always going to be sacred to someone. If we don’t figure out a way to earn the
privilege to do astronomy on the mountaintops, we’ve lost the battle.”
At the conclusion of Chun’s talk, Wally Ishibashi, a senior cultural advisor for the Office of Mauna Kea Management, asked about the efforts being made towards having a direct dialogue with TMT opponents.
“We haven’t got to the point where people are willing to come and sit down and even talk, much less negotiate,” Chun answered.