Hawaii Senate panel hears testimony on Gov. David Ige's land department nomination

Associated Press

A Hawaii Senate panel is taking up Gov. David Ige's nomination of Carleton Ching to lead the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The Senate Committee on Water and Land heard testimony on Ching's nomination Wednesday.

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Hundreds of testifiers submitted more than 1,000 pages of written testimony before the hearing. Most of the testimony was against the nominee because of his background in development.

Most recently, Ching served as vice president of community and government relations for Castle & Cooke Hawaii, a development firm where he worked for more than a dozen years.

But Ige selected Ching to lead the department, which is charged with conservation of land and water, a mission most opponents see as in direct conflict with developers.

"His career track has been the polar opposite of the DLNR mission," said Randy Awo, who recently retired after serving for 27 years in the enforcement division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Ige defended his nomination, saying Ching is up to the challenge.

"I do see a leader in him," Ige said. "He wants to leave the state better than he found it, just like I do. I think we all do."

During more than five hours of testimony at the hearing, opponents spoke of Ching's lack of experience in the areas of environmental stewardship and historic preservation.

"You don't hire a baseball player to serve as your football coach. Not Division I," said David Frankel, chairman of the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter. "You don't hire your football coach based on character."