LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i County Council members present at yesterday’s meeting unanimously passed a resolution supporting the ‘Aina Aloha Economic Futures initiative and transition to a circular economy based on Native Hawaiian values.
The ‘Aina Aloha Economic Futures initiative first gained traction earlier this year as an alternative to rebuilding the island economy away from tourism in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and back to deeper roots.
Councilmembers Mason Chock and KipuKai Kuali‘i introduced the resolution at Wednesday’s meeting.
Chock brought the ‘Aina Aloha authors together with the county’s Office of Economic Development to find similar philosophies and ideas between the initiative and the themes and recommendations of the Kaua‘i Economic Recovery Strategy Teams.
Some of these initiatives fall under sustainability, food systems, rethinking education, community-based governance and housing. Specific to a circular economy is building upon the foundations of sustainability and keeping materials and resources in the economy while preserving value.
Many of the 45 recommendations that came from the KERST committees focused on the future, finance and tourism aligned with the initiative, but those were short term projects.
“‘Aina Aloha is more future thinking,” Office of Economic Development Business Innovation Coordinator Diana Singh said.
OED Director Nalani Brun said that while there isn’t direct Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding on these items, the office used the KERST recommendations as a groundwork.
“We haven’t tried to look at changing what’s existing, we’re looking at the funding we have available and what we’re going after,” Brun said. “We haven’t made any efforts of actually making changes at this point, but we will.”
Over 2,300 individuals, businesses and organizations have signed on to support the ‘Aina Aloha declaration, including Chock and Kuali‘i. Mayor Derek Kawakami is a signatory of the declaration.
“I saw this several weeks ago and thought it was really important and it reflects the values that probably most of us share,” Kuali‘i said.
“The ‘Aina Aloha Economic Futures Initiative is a process of empowering community voices through community action to bring to life a resilient Hawai’i economy through the core value of ‘aina aloha,” the resolution states.
To assess the policies, projects and programs, ‘Aina Aloha created a scale that the resolution states should be incorporated in decision making. Important to the group’s mission is the feedback of residents and open-source information. With each proposal, considerations can be read, as well as pros and cons that can be viewed publicly.
“It’s a call from the community to regrow our economy in a way that we want to get a handle on,” Chock said.
Keoni Lee, a volunteer author with ‘Aina Aloha, is the chief executive officer of Hawai‘i Investment Ready.
“Our economic recovery is actually an economic transformation,” Lee said at the meeting. “We can no longer go back to what the status quo was pre-COVID.”