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Thursday, March 31, 2005



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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
William Aila Jr. spoke yesterday at a legislative hearing in favor of an audit of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources as DLNR Director Peter Young looked on.




Legislators hear calls
for state DLNR audit

Environmental and Hawaiian groups, boaters and others crowded a legislative hearing yesterday to urge an audit of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Testifiers pushed for passage of resolutions so a thorough study of the finances, staffing and priorities could help the department do its job better.

Rep. Brian Schatz (D, Tantalus-Makiki), one of the resolution sponsors, says questions have been raised about staff shortages, low morale and backlogs in reinterring Hawaiian remains.

"An audit could refocus division administrators, Land Board members and the administrator of DLNR on DLNR's mission and responsibility as trustees of the state's resources," said William Aila Jr., who works for DLNR as Waianae harbor master but was testifying as an individual.

DLNR Director Peter Young assured the House Committee on Water, Land and Ocean Resources that his department would cooperate with an audit. But he testified yesterday that he believes a more cooperative approach would yield better results.

Young said the department's budget has increased by $10 million under his watch and would have increased more if the Legislature had approved requested funds. He blamed hiring freezes by both Govs. Ben Cayetano and Linda Lingle and the Legislature's cut of 87 positions last year for staffing shortages that have drawn complaints.

The committee heard testimony yesterday on House Concurrent Resolutions 60 and 200, both of which call for an audit of the department. In addition, the committee is considering HCR 115, which calls for an audit of the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, and HCR 143, which calls for a follow-up audit of the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, which was audited in 1993, 1998 and 2001.

The committee postponed until 8:35 a.m. tomorrow a decision on which, if any, of the resolutions it will pass. The concurrent resolutions would also be heard by the Senate.

"Yes, we need an audit, but we do not need to hold one man accountable for all of DLNR's sins, both of omission and commission," said Shannon Wood, of the Windward Ahupua'a Alliance. "Peter Young is not a rogue elephant running amok in the halls of this building (the Capitol) and across the street (at DLNR headquarters). He is carrying out his orders given to him by his boss (Lingle) and her Cabinet collectively."

Attention has been focused on the DLNR since Yvonne Izu, former deputy director for water issues, resigned last month after refusing to draft testimony she said would dismantle the state Water Commission.

Young said yesterday that he is not trying to dismantle either the state Water Commission or Land Use Commission.

The Sierra Club, Hawaii's Thousand Friends and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. held a news conference last week questioning Young's leadership of the department.

State Dept. of Land & Natural Resources
www.state.hi.us/dlnr/


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