- Associated Press - Friday, May 20, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - A Native Hawaiian nonprofit educational corporation that’s supportive of building a giant telescope atop Mauna Kea is asking to participate in a hearing for the project’s construction permit.

In a motion filed with the state land board this week, Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities, Inc., known as PUEO, says the Thirty Meter Telescope will enhance educational opportunities for children. The organization’s board members “include native Hawaiians who seek knowledge and understanding and exercise customary and traditional native Hawaiian rights on Mauna Kea,” the motion said.

Unlike those who protest the project, the group’s members say the telescope won’t diminish their culture.

Some Native Hawaiians who oppose the project have also asked to participate, along with the nonprofit corporation that wants to build it.

“Because so much press has been focused on a voice that Native Hawaiians were against science and technology on Mauna Kea, the board felt that it was important to intervene in the current contested case for the sublease of lands to build the Thirty Meter Telescope … to dispel the myth that all Native Hawaiians opposed the project,” the group said in a statement.

A new contested case hearing is necessary because the state Supreme Court ruled last year the land board should not have issued a permit to build on conservation land before holding a hearing to evaluate a petition challenging the project’s approval.

A June 17 hearing in Hilo is scheduled to determine who may participate.

PUEO’s board members are native Hawaiians from the Keaukaha-Paneewa Hawaiian Homesteads in Hilo who “exercise customary and traditional native Hawaiian rights on Mauna Kea,” the motion said.

“The construction of telescopes on Mauna Kea utilized for viewing the celestial heavens and conducting valid research into the many galaxies that exist beyond our planet has never diminished my ability to be a native Hawaiian,” Shadd Keahi Warfield wrote in a declaration included with the motion. Infrastructure such as roads, restrooms and snow removal created by the telescopes already on Mauna Kea have allowed him to learn more about his culture there, he wrote.

Patrick Leo Kahawaiolaa’s declaration also notes that Mauna Kea infrastructure has made it easier to practice Hawaiian culture on the mountain.

“Before the construction of the summit road, our na kapuna walked or rode horses … or needed four-wheeled vehicle to get to the summit,” he wrote. “But now, because of the telescopes, they maintain the road so that we can drive to the top.”

Those who want to be a party to the contested case hearing have until May 31 to submit requests.

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