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Despite Protests, Construction to Continue on Hawaii's Mauna Kea Telescope

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After calling for a temporary month-long halt to the construction of the massive $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in the Mauna Kea Conservation District on the Big Island of Hawaii, Governor David Ige has decided to allow construction to proceed, despite continued protests from the Native Hawaiian community and pending appeals in the judicial system.

“It is my own belief that the activities of Native Hawaiians, and of our scientists, to seek knowledge and to explore our relationship with our cosmos and its creation can and should co-exist on the mountain," said Governor Ige. “What has instead happened is that science has received most of the attention and it has gotten way ahead of culture in our work on the mountain. The proper balance between the two has been lost.”

Acknowledging both that TMT had followed all the proper procedures and had a right to build, as well as the right of the people to protest, Ige emphasized the importance of taking care of the mountain. He called for the creation of a Mauna Kea Cultural Council to better address cultural concerns. He urged the University of Hawaii to do a better job of stewardship and to decommission 25 percent of existing telescopes. He asked TMT leadership to better support Native Hawaiian students interested in science and technology, perhaps with admissions and scholarships to partner institutions.

"[The Governor's] statement demonstrates a kind of contempt for the law and the people of Hawai`i," activist Kealoha Pisciotta, President of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou preservationist group told NBC News. "The people have spoken in very large numbers from Hawai`i and from around the world--No TMT!--We are maintaining our stand for the the Mauna and so there are likely to be many more arrests."

When completed, the telescope will be the largest and most advanced in the world, however, it also threatens sacred Hawaiian gravesites and a fragile ecosystem.