Hawaii telescope prompts protest in NZ

  • 18/07/2015
A ceremony is being held at Okahu Bay in Auckland (Twitter)
A ceremony is being held at Okahu Bay in Auckland (Twitter)

New Zealand is participating in an international protest against a plan to build one of the world's largest telescopes in Hawaii.

The US$1.4 billion ($NZ2.15 billion) Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is being built on the summit of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii, a sacred mountain to native Hawaiian people.

A ceremony is being held at Okahu Bay in Auckland today as part of a series of protests, dubbed "my mountain speaks".

Ceremonies will be held on the same day in Hawaii, Rapanui, Tahiti, Rarotonga, Requa in northern California and in Auckland, according to a Facebook page set up for the New Zealand event by Precious Clark.

The event in Auckland starts with a Karanga, a call or summons, at 9am.

Dr Keanu Sai from the University of Hawaii will speak.

Ms Clark says protesters are not against the idea of the giant telescope, just where it's being built, Radio New Zealand reports.

"It's not anti-science or anti-development, it is anti the development of that particular telescope on that particular sacred site. So here in Aotearoa we are lending our voices to that message."

Astronomers say the 30m aperture permits the telescope to reach further and see more clearly than previous telescopes by a factor of 10 to 100.

Henry Yang, chair of the TMT International Observatory Board, has said the majority of locals support the project.

"We are now comfortable that we can be better stewards and better neighbours during our temporary and limited use of this precious land, which will allow us to explore the heavens and broaden the boundaries of science in the interest of humanity," he has said.

TMT is willing to allow cultural practitioners in the area of the construction site to continue customary and traditional practices, he said.

In April, there was a temporary halt in construction to allow more consultation after protests.