Kim: Hawaiian leaders want to meet again on telescope

HONOLULU (AP) — The man tasked with trying to find a way out of an impasse over the construction of a giant telescope on Hawaii island says he met with Native Hawaiian leaders. But the only issue they reached a consensus on was to meet again.

Hawaii County Mayor Kim said Monday he met Native Hawaiian community leaders, including many from Oahu.

He says the group didn’t include protesters currently blocking a road to Mauna Kea’s summit, where an international consortium has a state permit to build a telescope. Kim says he met with protest leaders earlier when he visited the spot where they are blocking the road.

Gov. David Ige last week asked Kim to take the lead on finding common ground with protesters. The protest was on its 15th day Monday.

Meanwhile, the protests against construction of the giant telescope have halted work at existing observatories atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii News Now reported Sunday Workers at other facilities on the dormant mountain top have been denied access by demonstrators opposed to the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The Mauna Kea Observatories house 13 telescopes that have led to astronomical breakthroughs for more than 40 years, including the first photo of a black hole and the discovery of the first interstellar object in space.

“All we’re looking to do is to go up the road and resume what we’ve been doing for 50 years,” said scientist Doug Simons from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.

The two-week closure of the access road leading to the summit has resulted in the potential loss of a year’s worth of discoveries, said Simons.

The demonstrations have also affected the scientists’ interactions with family and community members.

“They have these great bonds within their family and their friends, and now there’s a big rift there,” said Jessica Dempsey from the East Asian Observatory and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope.

The lack of access has taken a toll on the telescopes, which need continuous maintenance.

“The technicians who take care of the equipment on a daily basis really care for those instruments like their babies,” said Rich Matsuda from the W.M. Keck Observatory. “And so the inability to access the equipment, take care of it on a daily basis, is frustrating, disappointing and difficult for them.”

Demonstrators oppose construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope they say could further damage land considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians.