O l a

Oahu Resilience Strategy

Executive Summary

A thousand years ago, voyaging canoes arrived on our island and fostered a culture where no person or group should gain too much at the expense of our ‘āina or people.

Since then, each wave of immigrants has brought their own cultural gifts to add. On a small island our shared value of community—where each individual gives a little so that the group ultimately benefits together—has always defined who we are. This core value provides a strong foundation for O‘ahu to survive, adapt, and thrive in a challenging future—but only if we empower our values with action.

Recently, the gap between rich and poor has grown, the scale of tourism has reached into neighborhoods and secluded areas, and natural disasters have pushed communities to the brink. Forty-five percent of O‘ahu residents live in a household where someone is contemplating leaving, and 78 percent of residents believe that climate change is going to impact them personally. Our modern voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a left O‘ahu to circle the globe with a call to restore our central value of mālama ‘āina: stating unequivocally that our ability to continue to thrive on island Earth together is rooted in local communities turning towards a truly sustainable future.

With this O‘ahu Resilience Strategy, the City and County of Honolulu picks up the torch from the Mālama Honua sail. The 44 actions within directly address the challenge of long-term affordability and the impacts of a climate crisis that is already driving islanders from their homes. Implementing this Strategy will make us economically more self-sufficient and safer as island people.

This Strategy was not the work product of one; it is a gut-check from thousands of residents who want to see action to protect the island they love. The good news is that with leadership and upfront investment, a higher quality of life will result for all O‘ahu residents. A healthy community pulls together in times of challenge, and we look forward to working alongside individuals, non-profits, businesses, and neighborhood organizations to steer O‘ahu’s course back to a thriving and equitable future.

Photo by Sean Marrs

Photo by Sean Marrs

Photo by Grady Timmons

Photo by Grady Timmons

Photo by Garrett Gee

Photo by Garrett Gee


Pillar I:
Remaining rooted

Our place-based culture has the highest quality of life—and highest cost of living—in the nation. The City will invest in long-term solutions that increase self-sufficiency, reduce out-of pocket expenses, and assure our community stay intact.

Pillar II:
Bouncing Forward

The threats from hurricanes, flooding, and extreme weather are on the rise. The City will work with individuals, neighborhoods, and institutions to be prepared to absorb these blows and rebound in ways that put our entire community on stronger footing for each successive event.

Pillar III:
Climate security

The climate crisis is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced, and as an island society we are facing the impacts first. The City must transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy as rapidly as possible and begin changing policies and our infrastructure to protect lives and property that are increasingly in harm’s way.

Pillar IV:
Community Cohesion

Community is the essential element of resilience. The City must foster connectivity and collaboration to ensure that when we are presented with economic and environmental challenges, we will come together stronger and tighter as one island ‘ohana that cares for all.

Developing O‘ahu’s Resilience Strategy

This Resilience Strategy was written by our community. Over an 18-month period grassroots residents and community leaders helped shape and craft the 44 resilience actions that form the body of this strategy and lay a path to a resilient future for O‘ahu. The effort kicked off with a meeting of over 140 island leaders in the summer of 2017 from the for-profit, nonprofit, and governmental sectors. The Resilience Office then visited all 33 neighborhood boards on O‘ahu, engaged with 219 organizations, and received direct survey input from more than 2,200 individuals representing a range of O‘ahu’s geographical, ethnic, gender, and age diversity. Over 70 percent of the surveys and input were collected live and in-person with island residents, and during the peak of engagement from October 2017-March 2018, the Resilience Office averaged more than one public outreach meeting per day. These grassroots perspectives and concerns on resilience directly led to the selection of four key areas that ultimately formed the basis of the Resilience Strategy: reducing the long-term cost of living; natural disaster preparation; blunting the impacts of climate change; and, leveraging the power of community.

One of the several hundred engagement activities and some of the more than 2,200 individuals across O‘ahu who contributed to the development of the strategy.

One of the several hundred engagement activities and some of the more than 2,200 individuals across O‘ahu who contributed to the development of the strategy.

Utilizing the City Resilience Framework tool developed by 100RC, our resilience survey resulted in a clear prioritization of three areas of profound resilience challenge and one area of clear strength for O‘ahu. These four areas became the central four pillars of our strategy. The confluence of these factors identified by our residents affirm our “informal” definition: resilience is where the environment and economy meet. In the Summer of 2018, the City’s Resilience Office asked nearly 90 community representatives, leaders, and experts from outside of the City to volunteer their time to drill down on the four critical areas and come up with “outside the box” solutions that could be implemented by the City and accelerate our progress to be a more resilient community.

Over the span of four months and dozens of meetings, 195 actions were proposed, researched, weighed and vetted by the working groups until 49 of the strongest and most impactful remained. In January of 2019, these community-driven resilience actions were reviewed, strengthened, combined, and then endorsed both by an internal City Resilience Team comprised of 15 key department directors, and ultimately by the Resilience Strategy Steering Committee—a group of 21 Executive Directors, CEO’s and other organizational leaders whose partnership with the City is critical to implement every single one of the 44 grassroots ideas that ultimately emerged to form our path to resilience.

How the Resilience Strategy was developed