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Historic Preservation Division shares updates on staffing problems and the five-year plan

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The Legislature is considering an increase in funding for the Hawaiʻi State Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The division, also known as SHPD, is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting, and managing places important to Hawaiʻi’s history and culture.

Its mission is to preserve the past for the future, whether that's taro patches, burial sites or historical buildings.

Alan Downer, the division administrator, said Gov. David Ige has included the increase in his proposed budget, which will help them address opportunities and problems more effectively — like the difficulty they’ve experienced hiring staff.

"We're competing with other government and non-government organizations and for-profit firms for qualified staff," Downer said. "There just doesn't seem to be a very large pool here in Hawaiʻi."

"When I talk to the consulting firms, for example, they're all saying, we're turning down work, we can't do the work that people are waving money at us and we have to say, I'm sorry, we can't help you," he recounted. "What I'm hearing is that that's true for almost all the firms. So it's an enormous problem."

Downer says his agency is currently in the early stages of revising the existing five-year statewide Historic Preservation Plan, a requirement for receiving a federal historic preservation grant from the National Park Service.

The next opportunity for the public to provide input for the updated version of the plan will be in March.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Feb. 8, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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