East Hawaii News

Survey: Air Quality, Finances Top Concerns for Puna Residents

December 30, 2014, 12:43 PM HST
* Updated December 30, 12:50 PM
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Many Puna residents are not considering leaving their homes in the midst of the slow-moving June 27 lava flow.

Worries about air quality and financial impact, however,  still linger over a portion of the population, according to the most recent June 27 Lava Flow Community Needs Survey, done in collaboration by the Hawai’i Island United Way, Hawai’i County Civil Defense, and Mark Kimura, Ph.D. and Kathryn Besio Ph.D. of the University of Hawai’i at Hilo’s Geography and Environmental Sciences Department.

The survey data, collected between Nov. 20 and Dec. 11, reached 784 people, which is just over 20 percent of the population count of 3,809 listed in the 2010 United States Census. Thirty percent of those respondents say they reside in the Hawaiian Beaches and Shores area.

“The survey that Dr. Kimura has been conducting has been very valuable to us with understanding the demographics and needs of the community and community expectations,” said Hawai’i County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira during Tuesday morning’s media briefing.

Two of the top seven concerns among residents in the region are air quality and financial impact. Other issues raised include communication services and public utilities, such as water, electric service, and roads.

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The survey shows that 63 percent of people own a home in the district, with the average household holding three-and-a-half people. Seventy-two percent of residents say that they are not considering a voluntary evacuation, a large increase from the last social survey done in October, which showed that 42 percent were staying in their homes and not planning on evacuating.

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On the other hand, seven percent of current residents say they are currently trying to move out of the area. Nearly 60 percent of households expect to be abandoned once lava approaches the property’s boundary or when officials order the residents to leave.

Just over 40 percent of households, an estimated 1,563, say that if forced out of the area, they will need to find either a new place to live or a long-term living arrangement. A little over 20 percent of respondents say that they plan to live with friends on island.

Most small pets, like dogs and cats, won’t be left behind when their owners leave. About 89 percent of people said they would take their pets with them, while 10 percent were still undecided. Just less than two percent stated that they would leave their pets back.

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“We convened a meeting between the Hawai’i Island Humane Society and several other animal advocate and support groups to try to identify programs or services that might be made available to those residents that are struggling with the decision to move, and if they are moving, what are they going to do with their pets,” Oliveira explained.

Livestock like chickens and cows don’t have the same assurances that dogs and cats do. Just 55 percent of livestock owners say that they would definitely take their livestock with them. Twenty-nine percent of respondents, owning potentially over 220 livestock, say that they aren’t sure what they would do. Sixteen percent of livestock owners say they would not take their animals with them.

The full results of the survey can be viewed here.

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