12 November 2006

Why bother to think?

The New Zealand Government will make all your decisions for you.

One snippet from this week's issue of Brian Harmer's admirable WYSIWIG News:

Simon Collin of the Christchurch City Council says depending on which scientist you speak to, disposables can take between two and 500 years to decompose and the human waste in them contributes to greenhouse gasses. He says in a bid to reduce the amount going to the rubbish dump, they have decided to subsidise washable nappies, as the cost of them is thought to be prohibitive to many families. Mr Collin says they have put aside ten thousand dollars to subsidise 500 starter packs.
In fact, it's not at all certain that cloth nappies are kinder to the environment:

If in a drought, it's best to use disposable diapers. If the area has landfill problems, it's best to use commercially laundered cloth diapers. If there are air pollution problems, resort to disposable diapers. The best diaper ultimately depends on the community's situation. Source: Institute for Lifescycle Environmental Assessment
...which is why I always stress that it is environmental outcomes that are important, not the alleged ways of achieving them, however trendy or superficially attractive those might be. Besides, the best ways of achieving outcomes are prone to change with time as scientific relationships change, and as knowledge expands.

A second excerpt from WYSIWIG News:

The [New Zealand G]overnment is injecting close to $2 million into a regional initiative to strengthen Wairarapa's international food and wine reputation.

And a third:

A showcase of New Zealand-made products at Parliament later today, is expected to be tinged with sadness as it coincides with the first anniversary of the death of Rod Donald. The invitation-only event is the first of six regional showcases and kicks off the Government's Buy Kiwi Made programme.

As Brian Harmer rightly comments:

These kinds of jingoistic programmes are understandable at one level, but are not logically sustainable in a country whose economic lifeblood is exporting products to other countries. How would we react to our products being shunned as a result of similar programmes in those countries. Protectionism like this will bite us in the posterior sooner or later.
Yet another item discusses Auckland's proposed waterfront sports stadium, which could cost up to NZ$1 billion. Much of this will come from central and local government funds.

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