Mauna Kea and the Thirty Meter Telescope

Below is a brief overview of the history of Mauna Kea and the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Wākea lived with Papa, begetter of islands, both of whom are akua. Begotten was Hawaiʻi, an island, the piko of which is Mauna Kea, home to numerous ahu, heiau, burials, and the center of Hawaiian navigational, astronomical, and meterological knowledge.


The state Land Board issues a general lease to the University of Hawai`i to build one observatory on Mauna Kea. Over the next 20 years, developers build a number of telescope complexes, without permits. Over public protest, the Land Board issues “after the fact” permits for the unauthorized development.


Mauna Kea Complex Development Plan prepared and approved by BLNR in 1985. This plan allows up to thirteen (13) telescopes by the year 2000.


The 2000 Master Plan is developed by UH, allowing for at least 40 new telescopes and support structures.


Developers for the largest, the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope, apply for a permit to build in the summit conservation district from the BLNR in October 2010.


TMT contractors attempt to begin grading and access-way construction for the TMT project. Hundreds of Mauna Kea protectors block roads accessing the proposed TMT site. Thousands more show their support for the protection of Mauna Kea. At least 31 peaceful demonstrators were arrested


In response to another attempt to construct the TMT on July 15, 2019, thousands of Kanaka Maoli and our allies gathered to hold space at Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu in an effort to halt the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Photo: Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu

For more information on the 50 years of mis-managing Mauna Kea by the University of Hawaiʻi and the State of Hawaiʻi, please view this mini-documentary by Kanaeokana:

Mahalo nui loa to KAHEA: The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance for their Mauna Kea timeline, from which the information presented on this page is drawn.