Only a few hours after Gov. David Ige had announced his nomination of Castle & Cooke lobbyist Carleton Ching to chair the Department of Land and Natural Resources, environmentalists were harshly criticizing the selection.

For the past 12 years, Ching has worked for Castle & Cooke, a development company that has been under fire for its planned 3,500-home development in central Oahu known as Koa Ridge.

A petition urging state senators to reject Ching’s nomination calls the appointment “putting the fox to guard the hen house.”

The Sierra Club of Hawaii also issued a statement criticizing Ige’s choice. The organization sued to stop Koa Ridge and unsuccessfully campaigned to prevent the development from getting approved.

“As far as we can tell Mr. Ching has no professional experience protecting Hawaii’s natural resources. He seems to care more about concrete than conservation,” said Sierra Club Oahu Chairman Anthony Aalto in an email.

Aalto noted that a Honolulu Advertiser article dated January 5, 2005, said of the nominee: “Asked by one senator how long it should take to approve a housing development, Ching deadpanned, ‘Just sign a document and tell us go,’ drawing laughter from yesterday’s participants.”

In his press release announcing the appointment, Ige said of Ching, “No one understands better the complex issues this department handles and how to balance the needs of our environment and our residents.”

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