TMT opponent reconsideration request detailed

  • An artist rendering of the Thirty Meter Telescope against a backdrop of the other Maunakea telescopes. Courtesy image

HILO — Opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope are getting some help from other Native Hawaiian leaders and a former state Supreme Court justice in their request for reconsideration of a recent ruling in favor of the $1.4 billion project.

Appellants of the Conservation District Use Permit that allows the next-generation observatory to be built on Maunakea filed the request Tuesday, which asks the high court to reconsider the ruling and adopt a dissenting opinion from Associate Justice Michael Wilson.


He wrote impacts to the summit are already “substantially adverse” and that the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, which approved the permit, was applying a “degradation principle” to Maunakea that “extinguishes the legal protection afforded to natural resources in the conservation district.”

The court ruled 4-1 on Oct. 30 in favor of granting the permit.

While cumulative impacts on the mountain have been adverse, the majority opinion notes commitments by the University of Hawaii to remove five telescopes, including three before TMT is complete, in addition to other mitigation steps, as part of the construction permit. The opinion says it was appropriate for BLNR to consider these measures when voting in favor of the document.

Additionally, Colette Machado and Dan Ahuna, who are Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees acting in an individual capacity, and the group Kuaaina Ulu Auamo filed an amici curiae brief in support of the appellants’ request for reconsideration.

They argue the majority opinion doesn’t recognize that cultural practices evolve through time, and that it erodes Hawaiian rights and the public trust doctrine.

The majority opinion says BLNR conducted a thorough analysis of cultural resources as required by a case known as Ka Paakai, and found the telescope won’t interfere with cultural practices at the summit or Lake Waiau. The amici filers say the court relied on too narrow of a scope for the analysis.

“This articulation of the Ka Paakai analysis confined only to a specific project footprint, as defined by the applicant and approving agency, diverges from established law and practical realities,” the filing says. “It threatens to create confusion and hardship by curtailing the scope of Native Hawaiian rights and their legal protections.”

Representing them are former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Klein, attorneys for Earthjustice and Melody Kapilialoha Mackenzie, a law professor at UH-Manoa.

Klein, who retired from the court in 2000, was the only part-Hawaiian on the court at the time of his retirement, according to a Honolulu Star-Bulletin article.

The 180-foot-tall telescope, to be built below the summit, would be the most powerful observatory on Maunakea, currently home to 13 telescopes.

Supporters say it will keep Hawaii at the forefront of astronomy and help unlock mysteries of the universe.


It has faced opposition from some Native Hawaiians because of concerns about impacts to cultural and natural resources.

Email Tom Callis at

  1. Pest Outwest November 23, 2018 3:18 pm

    “They argue the majority opinion doesn’t recognize that cultural practices evolve through time”

    Well, that’s true, because the current “cultural practices” in dispute are based on old beliefs that were utterly rejected by Hawaiians, and when re-adopted by the more recent native rights movements, the cruel and senseless parts of the religion were conveniently ignored. “Kapu” morphed into a word on “no trespassing” signs, rather than a system of practices designed to favor the elite (and men) over the common people.

    But how on earth is any court supposed to take into account such shifting sands? What if a group of people suddenly discovered the land underlying the commercial district in Kona was “sacred”? Would a court entertain a lawsuit to tear down their new courthouse, because it’s violating some holy lava rocks? It’s ridiculous.

    1. BadMonkey November 23, 2018 3:30 pm

      They had to move the location of the new court house from across the street from the Community Center/DMV due to the grass growing on the proposed property…so anything is possible !!!

    2. Buds4All November 23, 2018 5:10 pm

      Most of these people don’t even walk upright!

    3. Mossback November 24, 2018 6:12 am

      What part of the cruel practices; the Inquisition or burning witches at the stake?

      1. Pest Outwest November 24, 2018 6:41 am

        Oh, the old Hawaiians had no monopoly on evil, Christianity had its brutal period, only a millennium or so. That doesn’t make it right to kill a person for invading the shadow of an Ali’i, or for women to live off seaweed because everything else worth eating was reserved to men. Obviously those practices were not resurrected along with the superstition, but maybe they should be. The health of locals would be far improved if tuna poke and loco moco were forbidden . . . to anyone.

  2. BadMonkey November 23, 2018 3:33 pm

    What I find as ironic. Is the stars brought the Hawaiians to the islands and you would think that searching stars would be welcomed. I bet if you could get every Hawaiian King that walked and ruled the islands most would welcome such a project. Just another thing for somebody to b!%ch about.

    1. Pest Outwest November 24, 2018 6:49 am

      Well, if his past practices were any guide, Kamehameha might indeed wear a t-shirt promoting the telescope. He wore British clothing and built the first western-style structure in the islands to be his home.

  3. Buds4All November 23, 2018 5:08 pm

    Outrageous! Does the Supreme Court mean nothing? A bunch of liberal tree huger’s who braid their armpits get a second crack at a ruling that gave the green light!

  4. Nope November 23, 2018 9:39 pm

    Let’s poor concrete on everything!

  5. diverdave November 24, 2018 3:18 am

    Everyone just needs to remember this has NOTHING to do with “cultural practices” or “religion” and everything to do with political power of the sovereignty fringe minority.

  6. 4whatitsworth November 24, 2018 6:13 am

    At some point we need to examine where these people got the resources to wage such a legal battle that most people believe is against the public good. After this is over how do we keep this type of thing from happening again?

  7. Bond November 24, 2018 9:58 am

    follow the money then you’ll see who’s really behind this BS

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