Kim Releases Letter to Kia‘i, as Reopening of Maunakea Access Road Moves Forward

December 26, 2019, 3:03 PM HST (Updated December 26, 2019, 3:12 PM)
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Wednesday, July 17, 2019. PC: Gerald Besson

The Office of Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim on Thursday released his letter to demonstrators on Maunakea, a few days in advance of the Maunakea Access Road reopening for public access.

Kim’s letter is a key component in restoring widespread access to the road, which has been closed to the public since July 15, 2019. It was on that date when the Kia‘i — self-proclaimed protectors of Maunakea — first took up position there near the intersection with Daniel K. Inouye Highway in protest of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

The mayor addressed his proposal to Kia‘i leader Dr. Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, in which he made guarantees that no attempt would be made to move construction materials up the mountain by the State, the County or TMT.

As for the protectors, the deal stipulates they move their Kūpuna tent to the side of the access road, where it will remain without interference from law enforcement of any stripe.

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The reopening of the road is the latest domino to fall in a chain of events that began with an announcement from Gov. David Ige last week that state law enforcement would stand down on Maunakea indefinitely until TMT made a decision about how it wants to progress.

Mayor Kim’s letter is transcribed in full below, edited only for punctuation:

“The TMT Project has informed State officials and Mayor Kim that there will be no attempt to deliver construction equipment to the Maunakea site anytime soon. I, Mayor Kim, give you my personal assurances that no attempt will be made to move TMT construction equipment up the mountain for a minimum of two months. During this time, at least until the end of February, 2020, the protectors are requested to move the Kūpuna tent, which is currently in the roadway, to the side of the road. This will provide open access to the general public to drive up the road to the Maunakea Visitor Center or to the summit region. This clearance of the roadway will help ensure the safety of visitors and protectors.

During this time, State and County agencies and law enforcement will agree to stand down. There will be no attempt by State of Hawai‘i law enforcement agencies or Hawai‘i County Police Department to remove the protectors’ encampment from the sides of Maunakea Access Road or from Pu‘uhonua Pu‘uhuluhulu.

It is hoped that during this peaceful time, communication between government officials, the astronomy community, community leaders and protectors will continue. I, Mayor Kim will continue to work with TMT to extend the two-month stand-down period if necessary.

Please respond to this offer as soon as possible.”

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