Lava recovery task force nearly in place

The initial meeting of a new county task force that intends to review proposed policies and plans related to recovery efforts from the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano is expected to take place early next month.

Roy Takemoto, executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim, said the advisory task force would review proposed policies and plans related to recovery efforts before such plans are finalized.

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“Very basic, critical policies is what this task force would review” to provide diverse and “on-the-ground” feedback.

Having the task force in place is important, “because it’s time consuming and cumbersome for us to reach out to the community every time we need to make preliminary decisions,” Takemoto said. “So this is an efficient way to get diverse perspectives from various stakeholders in a very quick and controlled way and have meaningful discussions leading up to decisions.”

Takemoto said the task force will have between 15 and 20 people, with representatives from the county administration, County Council and the community. Administrative and council representatives already have been confirmed and include Puna council members Ashley Kierkiewicz and Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder, he said.

Administrative representatives are organized by “recovery support functions,” Takemoto said, or areas of focus in recovery efforts, like infrastructure, economy, community planning and capacity building, and health and social services.

Members include Public Works Director David Yamamoto; Diane Ley, director of the county Department of Research and Development and Kilauea recovery manager; Sharon Hirota, executive assistant to Kim; Acting Deputy Planning Director April Surprenant, County Finance Director Deanna Sako, and Takemoto.

According to Takemoto, a “natural and cultural resources” appointee has yet to be selected. Two task force seats will depend on ongoing hiring for the county’s recovery team, and three community members are still being selected.

Takemoto said county recovery efforts will go through two phases: planning and implementation.

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“This task force is expected to provide advice and guidance through both phases,” he said.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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