TMT Remains Committed to Finding a Way Forward in Hawaii
News Release from TMT.org, July 16, 2020
Gordon Squires, Vice President for External Relations for the TMT International Observatory, announced on Hawaii News Now Sunrise that construction will probably not happen this year or through the upcoming winter season.
"We're absolutely committed to finding a way forward in Hawaii. On-site activities are not going to happen this year or through the winter season...In the short term, we are looking to hire folks in our Hilo headquarters to help people get to working and perhaps do some activities to renovate the headquarters.
"With the pandemic and other factors that have come in, winter seems like a long ways away, but it's not that far away and for us to resume construction activities on site, winter on Mauna Kea just isn't feasible," Squires said.
Samuel Wilder King II, IMUA TMT Executive Director commented; "It's unfortunate that the protestors have stopped this project and caused the delay to happen. This is a multi-billion dollar project. If it was going on now, we'd have people working, we'd have jobs. They would have mobilized and they would have been here. And we would have had people working instead of being on the sidelines during this pandemic. Nobody saw this coming but that is the risk when you prevent projects that have gone this incredible vetting process. The project had 2 contested case hearings, 2 Hawaii Supreme Court decisions, the second one had 71 witnesses and it went on for 3 months. We have vetted this project so much and then to stop it.
Then you have COVID happen, and the project gets delayed, it went up a billion dollars. It's not just a random number, at some point, the value comes to Hawaii, which is excellent in a sense. It's also a problem in a sense, in that could have gone to COVID relief, that billion dollars. And the protestors don't care and are very selfish in that way. It's just unfortunate.......
We have a hole in our budget now that comes from taxes, it comes from things like TMT, which is going to pay a million dollars in rent. That is in addition to the million dollars in scholarships for kids a million dollars in workforce training, but never mind that. It's also paying a million dollars in rent. $800,000 to Office of Maunakea Management, which is a lot of management money the office will not get. $200,000 going to Office of Hawaiian Affairs also not going to happen....
So it's really, really sad that we are not having this project happen now... We are so reliant on tourism, instead we could have astronomy as one of our major industries. We are talking about a billion dollar project, this is huge. This is something you could build a tech eco-system around. We are constantly talking about these high tech jobs, that is this project, on the big island.
Why would we want this project to move? It's a $40 million dollar investment into Hawaii once its operational and 140 jobs. The cost is not that much different on Canary Islands and there is opposition there too.
The point is that Maunakea is a point that can unite culture and science. The mountain is awesome for that ability to say that culture and science can co-exist. Astronomy on Maunakea is my culture.... I have always thought it was so cool that we have these telescopes on Maunakea. And there are so many people on the Big Island.. and everyone all over the State that love the idea of having this world-class astronomy on Maunakea in Hawaii where our kids can go and learn this and work on it.
The late Paul Coleman, the first Native Hawaiian astronomer, had this dream that all the astronomers up there would be Hawaiian and from Hawaii too. That is an awesome dream.
But having a theocratic land system where someone can claim that something is sacred. We know its not sacred. Native Hawaiians, we overthrew the kapu system 201 years ago. And so people can keep their personal cultural beliefs and we respect that, it's great. And everybody will be able to practice those beliefs. But to say that we are going to go back to that system as opposed to having Paul Coleman' dream of Native Hawaiians in advanced astronomy... and we have young astronomers who dream of coming home to work on these projects, that's the awesome dream. That is something I want everyone in Hawaii to have."