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Hawaii land board votes to limit access to Mauna Kea amid protests over giant telescope

FILE - In this June 24, 2015, file photo, a Department of Land and Natural Resources official talks with Thirty Meter Telescope protesters at one of many blockades that started at the Mauna Kea visitor center, stopping construction vehicles from driving up to the summit of the mountain, about 40 miles west of Hilo, Hawaii. Hawaii's land board on Friday, July 10, 2015, will consider an emergency rule restricting access to Mauna Kea that officials say is necessary partly because a handful of protesters have threatened and harassed others.
Image Credit: (Holly Johnson/Hawaii Tribune-Herald via AP, File)
July 11, 2015 - 2:30 PM

HONOLULU, Hawaii - Hawaii officials voted to impose an emergency rule to restrict access to Mauna Kea after protesters blocked construction of a giant telescope on the mountain.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources voted 5-2 Friday night on the 120-day rule, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. The rule restricts being within a mile (1.6 kilometres) of the mountain's access road during certain nighttime hours, unless in a moving vehicle, and prohibits camping gear.

It would allow construction to resume on the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope, the subject of months of protests. Many Native Hawaiians consider the mountain sacred.

Camping was already prohibited on the mountain.

"We need the tools to keep order on the mountain," said board member Chris Yuen. "It's sad that it has come to this point."

Construction had stalled as protesters maintained an around-the-clock presence on the mountain.

More than 100 people testified during the eight-hour meeting. .

Protest leaders say they won't stop keeping constant vigil.

Bad behaviour by some protesters — ranging from putting boulders in the road to threats and harassment — has created unsafe conditions that make the emergency rule necessary, said state Attorney General Doug Chin.

The University of Hawaii, which is responsible for stewardship of Mauna Kea, released logs kept by rangers and staff at the mountain's visitor centre since late March, when protesters started staying on the mountain overnight.

Kahookahi Kanuha, a protest leader, denied the allegations of bad behaviour.

State officials had argued that the volume of protesters — hundreds of them at times — is damaging to natural resources and a strain on facilities.

Some of those who testified said the rules would infringe on Native Hawaiians' right to access the mountain for cultural and religious practices.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
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