New ahu built on Maunakea

  • A new ahu has been built across from the Maunakea Visitor Information Station.(HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)
  • A new ahu has been built across from the Maunakea Visitor Information Station. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

HILO — A new ahu has been erected near the Maunakea summit, less than a day after two other ahu were dismantled to make way for construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The ahu — or altar — stands at the former site of Hale o Kukiaimauna, a structure located across the Maunakea Access Road from the Maunakea Visitor Information Station.

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Hale o Kukiaimauna was one of four unpermitted structures that were dismantled Thursday morning before Gov. David Ige announced that TMT construction will go ahead this summer, following years of delays.

Lakea Trask, a TMT protester who was at the site of the hale after it was removed Thursday, said he was not directly involved with building the new ahu, but explained it was a collaborative effort between dozens of TMT opponents who gathered there after hearing the news of TMT’s construction.

“They wanted to leave the area with a bit more respect and dignity than the state people left it,” Trask said.

The ahu appears to be built from remnants of the hale. After the hale was dismantled on Thursday, piles of rocks were left where it stood. Those piles are now gone, with the approximately 4-foot-tall ahu in their place.

Unlike the two ahu dismantled on Thursday, the new ahu is not directly blocking access to the TMT site. However, like the previous ahu, Hale o Kukiaimauna and another hale at the beginning of the Maunakea Access Road, it also is an unpermitted structure.

The two demolished ahu previously had iwi, or bones, interred within them, but it was not clear whether the new ahu had as well.

Trask said there has not been any state response to the ahu yet. Ige spokeswoman Jodi Leong said state officials are monitoring the situation and will “take action if necessary.”

However, Trask said he expects more ahu may spring up as the TMT construction approaches.

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“That’s how it is; the little rocks can get scattered in this turmoil, but we’ll restack them. We’ll always come back,” Trask said. “I think we’ll see a lot more pohaku like this come back together.”

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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