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Esther Kia’aina on DLNR Challenges

Recently, the Honolulu Star Advertiser, reported on May 7, the challenges continuing to face the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s (DLNR) State Division of Historic Preservation (SHPD) in “Deficiencies put division’s federal funding in jeopardy: the state division has been unable to resolve its staffing and public access problems.”

This important federal issue was flagged by the U.S. National Park Service in 2010 when SHPD was placed in “high-risk status” for “inadequate staffing; lack of a searchable, online database of historic and cultural sites; and failure to update its statewide historic preservation plan.” Failure by  SHPD to comply by February 2013 may result in the loss of one-third of SHPD’s  $1.9 million in funding.

I have every confidence in the leadership of the DLNR Chairman William Aila, and SHPD Administrator Pua Aiu in doing all that they can to move in the right direction toward full compliance with NPS requirements. Indeed, NPS has admitted that much progress has been made since 2010.

Given the enormous challenges plaguing SHPD, I highly recommend that DLNR and SHPD partner with other stakeholders in Hawaii who have mutual interests in the mission of SHPD, the capacity and resources to help SHPD, and the desire to see the division succeed for the betterment of all the people of Hawaii.  Too much of our historical and cultural sites are at risk.

Some stakeholders that come to mind include the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Kamehameha Schools, the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, and the University of Hawaii system.  Whether it be expertise in historic and cultural site preservation, iwi kupuna, Geographic Information Science (GIS), data management, or on-the-job training, SHPD can likely move more quickly at implementing NPS recommendations, instead of going it alone.  Partnerships have the potential of strengthening SHPD operations and programs while improving current processes for the benefit of the public.  They can also serve as a pipeline for undergraduates and graduates in the UH system through internships, fellowships, and eventually direly needed jobs.

The State Department of Education was successful in its $75 million Race to the Top federal funding through the collaboration of partners like the Kamehameha Schools. Such collaboration should be replicated among DLNR, SHPD, and other key community stakeholders.

As a former Congressional staff member familiar with the inner workings of the Department of Interior and the Congressional committees of jurisdiction over this issue, I will work closely with federal and state officials to strengthen SHPD’s role in preserving our precious historical and cultural sites.

Me ke Aloha,

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Esther Puakela Kia’aina

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