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Senate confirms Aila as state land director

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:49 p.m. HST, Mar 3, 2011

The state Senate has confirmed William Aila as chairman of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Senators voted 23-0 today to approve Aila’s nomination, despite concerns that he held aquarium and commercial fishing permits, which could have presented a conflict of interest with his new job as a protector of the state's environment. Aila has said he's relinquishing those permits.

Sen. Clayton Hee said Aila should have disclosed the permits during his confirmation hearing before the Water, Land and Housing Committee.

Hee also questioned whether Aila adequately considered protection of Native Hawaiian burials before approving Honolulu's rail project.

But committee chairman Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz said today he is confident Aila will be a responsible steward of the department.

Aila is a Native Hawaiian advocate and previously served as Waianae harbormaster.

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