Headline news all about choice - and cost
EDITORIAL: If there's been a theme in the predominant stories of New Zealand and Taranaki this week, it's that there's always a choice - and a cost.
As the electioneering begins and the national political scene opens up in a way we haven't seen for close to a decade, the choices on offer for voters were starkly presented by the two main parties' water policies.
Labour's plan to tax commercial water users, including farmers, and use the cash to clean up waterways contrasts with National's plan, which is a much more steady as she goes approach - with a modest amount of money dished out for specific waterways - including $2 million for Taranaki to help kick the riparian planting scheme along.
A charge for water should produce quite a bit of money to clean up waterways even further, but farmers, and the regions that depend on that rural income will certainly fork out. Or we can carry on as we are, and under National, likely all have a little extra in the back pocket, while we take incremental steps towards better water.
* Farmers would pay to irrigate under Labour's freshwater policy
* Fences, wetlands and a dam get public funds
* Controversial plan to mine sea bed for iron ore approved in split decision
* Iwi will appeal ironsand mining off Taranaki coast
The flip side though is the cost to not cleaning up our waterways quickly and let's face it, forgetting Taranaki for a minute, the pictures coming from the South Island are pretty damning. What if we run out of good clean water to farm with, for children to swim in, or even, one day, to drink?
This very simplistic analysis can be duplicated across the whole range of election issues we're likely to encounter come September.
Big spend-ups on health, education, housing, and justice will all come at a cost. The same money Labour will use to fund these services is the money National will give back, mostly to middle-range income earners, through tax changes.
But is the cost of not funding those services adequately even greater in the long run?
Are people willing to fork out for everything they want?
That's a choice for every individual.
Even closer to home, we got a good illustration of the concept of choices and costs with Thursday's EPA greenlight for ironsand mining off the Taranaki coast.
Although any actual mining is still likely years away, the EPA's choice was made, and in the minds of many the choice was for money at the cost of the environment.
That may be so, but sometimes decisions like that do have to be made. For instance, when Taranaki was settled by the pioneers, the choice was made to clear huge swathes of farmland, the cost coming to the acres of native forest that had to make way.
It would be a hard ask to find many people today who would disagree with that choice, if they take into account the life it made possible. Sometimes the cost is worth it.
The big difference in the two big stories outlined above is that in the case of ironsand mining the choice was made for us by just four experts. In September, every New Zealander has the choice about where and whether they're happy to bear the cost.