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

The Legislative Assembly is considering increasing funding for the Hawaii State Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources.

The division, also known as SHPD, is the state agency responsible for preserving, protecting, and managing places significant to Hawaii’s history and culture.

Its mission is to preserve the past for the future, be it taro plots, burial grounds or historic buildings.

Alan Downer, the division’s administrator, said Governor David Ige has included the increase in his proposed budget, which will help them deal more effectively with opportunities and issues, like the difficulty they’ve had in hire staff.

“We compete with other governmental and non-governmental organizations and for-profit companies for qualified personnel,” Downer said. “There just doesn’t seem to be a very big pool here in Hawaiʻi.”

“When I talk to consulting firms, for example, they all say, we’re turning down work, we can’t do the work 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 this is true for almost any business. So it’s a huge problem.”

Downer says his agency is currently in the early stages of revising the existing five-year statewide historic preservation plan, a requirement to receive a federal historic preservation grant from the National Park Service.

The following opportunity for the public to provide feedback on the updated version of the plan will take place in March.

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

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