The University of Hawaii at Manoa will break ground on a 143-foot tall telescope on May 14, according to a letter it sent this week to the Department of Land and Natural Resources

The news isn’t going over well with Kilakila `O Haleakalā, a Native Hawaiian organization, which has worked to halt the project and is involved in an unresolved contested case hearing.  

From the group’s attorney: 

            Kilakila `O Haleakalā, a Native Hawaiian organization dedicated to protecting the natural and cultural resources of Haleakalā, reacted with dismay.  The University did not send copies of its intent to construct to Kilakila `O Haleakalā.

Kī`ope Raymond, President of Kilakila `O Haleakalā said, “I’m disappointed that Mr. Maberry lacked the courtesy to inform Kilakila `O Haleakalā of the University’s intent to begin construction work.  And I’m very concerned that the University would do this when the Board of Land and Natural Resources has not issued a decision in our contested case hearing as to whether the University should even be allowed to build a fourteen-story telescope at the very top of Haleakalā.”

            According to David Kimo Frankel, Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation attorney representing Kilakila `O Haleakalā, the University’s action is “unprecedented and insulting to our clients.”  According to Frankel, “The University is trying to bulldoze its project through without regard to legal requirements, the impacts to Native Hawaiians, or the consequences to the National Park.  A developer cannot start building before the Board decides the basic question as to whether the development should be built in the first place.”  

The unprecedented decision to construct prior to resolution of the contested case hearing comes in the wake of concerns about the ex parte political pressure imposed on the Board of Land and Natural Resources’ hearing officer for an expedited decision.  Frankel said, “The process has been indelibly tainted by improper ex parte pressure from Senator Daniel Inouye and Governor Neil Abercrombie on the University’s behalf.  The University adds insult to injury by rushing to build before giving the Board of Land and Natural Resources the opportunity to deliberate on the legality of construction of the 143 foot tall telescope in the conservation district.”