Pacific Business News, Jan 26, 2015 (Updated: Jan 27, 2015)
Reporter- Pacific Business News
More than 20 environmental groups, including the Sierra Club of Hawaii, are urging Hawaii Gov. David Ige to withdraw his nomination of Castle & Cooke executive Carleton Ching to lead the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and sink any plans to weaken or eliminate the state Land Use Commission.
The groups, in a joint statement, said that they question the motivation behind Ige’s openness to eliminating the Hawaii Land Use Commission, which they say serves an essential role in the proper planning of land uses, developing land appropriately and protecting public trust resources and the public interest.
Ige said Monday after his State of the State Address at the Capitol that he supports the LUC and does understand that it has been the target in the past of efforts to streamline the process, but believes that it plays a very important role in regulating land use.
“In fact, I am looking at getting back to what the Land Use Commission used to do — really looking at all of the land uses and doing a good job at projecting what the needs of our communities are,” he said. “I implement the law as it exists today. We have a land use commission on the books. I intend to fulfill the requirements and responsibilities of the LUC.”
The groups also noted that it is asking the governor to withdraw his nomination of Ching because the vice president of community and government relations for Castle & Cooke has not demonstrated expertise in managing the cultural and natural resources that fall under the department’s jurisdiction.
Ige said that he likes Ching’s heart and that he’s a great leader with a good business mind.
“I know he understands that he [will] work for the people of Hawaii,” Ige said. “We’ve had other directors at DLNR, who came from the business sector, who did a great job there — Bill Paty, Tim Johns — amongst others. I’m confident [Ching] is the right person for the job and the senate will do their job in assessing the nominee and making the right decision for the people of Hawaii.”
Ching’s nomination still needs the approval of the state Senate.
“It is still early in [Governor] Ige’s term, and we urge him to make the proper course corrections for the benefit of our natural environment and the people of Hawaii nei,” the group said. “We look forward to working with him and his administration to make Hawaii a better place for all the people of these islands, our children, and generations to come.”
Among the groups are Conservation Council for Hawaii, Defend Oahu Coalition, Earthjustice, Friends of Lanai, Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, Hui Hoomalu I Ka Aina, KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, Kanehili Hui, Kupaa No Lanai, Life of the Land, LOST FISH Coalition, MANA, Maui Tomorrow, Oahu Chapter of Aha Moku Council, Progressive Democrats of Hawaii, Puna Pono Alliance, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, The Outdoor Circle, Wailua-Kapaa Neighborhood Association, West Maui Preservation Association and Ilioulaokalani Coalition.