(BIVN) – Ahiena Kanahele, one of the two petitioners who asked the Land Use Commission to make a Declaratory Order concerning “de facto and improper industrial use” for astronomy on conservation land atop Mauna Kea, testified on Friday in Hilo.
Kanahele, the son of Pualani Kanakaʻole Kanahele, is a former ranger with the Office of Mauna Kea Management. In his written testimony, Kanahele stated that he tried to mālama the area in light of the fact that “the state and others have elected to introduce human uses of the summit area,” which is counter to what is appropriate in the wao akua.
The Land Use Commission ultimately voted to deny Kanahele’s request, but not before questioning him on the current situation on Mauna Kea, where opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope have halted the planned start of construction on the new observatory.
“I believe in the rule of law,” said commissioner Gary Okuda. “If the law says that people have the right to certain access under the law, they have a right to access,” whether it be for cultural uses or for permitted construction. “What would be the one thing the University of Hawaiʻi could do to try to chip away at the situation that we have here today?” Okuda asked Kanahele.
“Jeez, I mean, it’s already 12 up there,” thought Kanahele. “They’re gonna build the biggest one of them all. Twice as big as the last the last one.”
“I guess the obvious thing, kind of what you’re alluding to, is a few people on both sides sit down at the table and talk,” Kanahele eventually said. “That would be my answer to that question.”
“It’s pretty clear [what] the dividing line is,” Kanahele said. “TMT, they just want it built. Let’s say they compromise. Okay, we tell them: TMT, what about [if] you not build here. The, the conversation’s over. We both go our separate ways.”
Commissioner Nancy Cabral thanked Kanahele and his wife Kuʻulei for “taking this legal avenue”.
“Isn’t there someplace that negotiation can take place,” Cabral asked Kanahele, “because I know it keeps being said on the TV ‘we’re never gonna negotiate’… that, just not by you, but you know other people involved with the protest, and it concerns me because I see this great, huge divide. And the pain it has really caused here in Hilo. It’s hurting our whole community, and it troubles me that we have – in a sense – a civil war going on. Its neighbors against neighbors and family against family.”
“Is there any room for compromise?” Cabral asked.
“Thank you for bringing up that point about the schism that is going on now,” Kanahele answered. “If TMT is built, that schism is gonna get way uglier. Because there’s not gonna be, all of a sudden, all of those who are anti-TMT is like ‘oh well, guess we’ll just have to get along with it.’ This thing is growing, and it has a life of its own. That’s something that sounds unpleasant, but is a reality.”
“This thing is not organized by anybody, this resistance,” Kanahele said, “and this is the biggest resistance, yet.”
When commission chair Jonathan Likeke Scheuer asked Kanahele if they were looking for a pause in the plan to build the TMT, Kanehele said “that sounds like a good idea. Just to deescalate. Just to stop the boiling waters, you know?”
“Like I said, it’s only gonna get uglier. So just to get people to kind of calm down a little bit, a pause might be the call for the day,” Kanahele said.