It's a simple argument, with no simple answers.
The coastline of the East Cape is raw, rugged, untouched, undeveloped. Its people are not rich, but they know they can always turn to the hills and to the sea in order to survive.
We were on the East Cape to meet locals, and ask them their thoughts on the prospect of drilling for oil off their coastline.
The East Cape is rugged, remote, and stunningly beautiful. Around each sweeping curve is a new stretch of coastline. Weatherboard houses perched next to sheltered coves. A lonely church with a red roof overlooking azure waters. A chestnut horse beneath a broad Pohutakawa, staring at us as we pass by. A group of visitors received a powhiri as we drove past Te Kaha marae. The communities of the Cape may be among the poorest of people but, flanked by lush forests and sparkling ocean, they must also be among the richest.
And as we drive the winding roads of Apanui we see the signs. No Drilling. No Mining Our Whenua. Oil Spills Kill.
We stopped at a derelict factory to get some shots. Its doors hung on hinges, windows smashed, walls covered in graffiti, but its name still remained. Te Kaha Co-Operative Dairy.
It was two days later when we flew into New Plymouth, and again, we saw the signs. Not hand-painted protest messages, but signs of industry, wealth, and businesses built on the back of the oil and gas industry.
The comparison between a large city like New Plymouth, and a remote region like the East Cape isn't perfect, but the point is that for decades New Plymouth has been at the forefront of an industry now proposed for the East Cape. Of the 197 offshore wells drilled in New Zealand waters, 176 have been off the coast of Taranaki.
It is impossible to say what Taranaki would look like without the oil and gas industry, but it would be vastly different. For decades now, the constant flow of oil and gas money has paid for construction, art installations, sponsorship, and community initiatives.
In the Opotiki District, unemployment is 9.6%, the median income just $17,400. In the New Plymouth district, unemployment is 4.8%, well below the national average, and the median income $22,800.
Around 10% of the New Plymouth district workforce is employed by the wider oil and gas industry - An industry worth $2.5 billion. Oil and gas pays very well.
Successive governments have enthusiastically signed exploration permits, eying the billions that oil and gas exports could fetch on world markets.
We spoke with one company owner whose business servicing the gas industry had grown from 2 to 30 people - all locals - in just a few years. Would he expand to other centres if oil and gas was being produced elsewhere? Absolutely.
The region's Mayor, Harry Duynhoven, was bullish about the benefits for his region. These days Taranaki is flush with cash - white gold from the dairy farmers, black gold from oil and gas.
Not that that argument holds much water on the East Cape. Opponents believe any work that comes would be limited to the main centres - Tauranga, Whakatane, maybe Gisborne. There is little faith that the trickledown effect will trickle very far. And no amount of financial benefit will be worth the cost if something goes wrong.
Speak to the protestors of the Cape, and you'll soon realise the geology of the Raukumara Basin is the cause of much concern. Any drilling would likely be deeper than BP's ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig, exposed to the wild conditions of the Pacific Ocean, in an area known for its geological liveliness.
Which brings us back to the Rena.
Drilling advocates have been at pains to point out that the Rena had nothing to do with the oil industry. And it doesn't, but the ship's grounding has probably proved more harmful to their cause than anything else.
The public has seen the disaster unfold, seen how long the clean-up and response has been, and seen how ill-prepared New Zealand is for a significant spill.
Te Whanau Apanaui spokesman, Robert Ruha, told me of oil had washed hundreds of kilometres around the cape. He spoke of elders crying, mourning their waters as they would mourn the loss of a loved one.
There can be no guarantees that disaster will not occur, but the industry says it is now safer, smaller, and more economical.
Rob Jager, the head of Shell NZ, told us he had no doubt that oil and gas extraction could be done safely, otherwise companies like Shell wouldn't be doing it. The reason surrounded us. We were being shown around the Pohokura gas processing plant. Pohukura - a tangle of pipes and platforms barely bigger than a couple of rugby fields - had cost a billion dollars.
Investments like that are not risked by doing things half-half-heartedly. Like BP with Deepwater Horizon, Shell too has had its disasters. In every case, said Rob, they'd learned from them, made their operations better, smarter, safer. The damage from an oil spill is more than environmental. If nothing else, a spill is terrible for the reputation, and the bottom line.
Billions of dollars.
Thousands of jobs.
A booming and bustling city.
This is a world away from the sparsely populated East Cape, its struggling economy, and the old Te Kaha Co-op Dairy building.
But that's not what the people of the East Cape want.
They’re happy with their broken building, their untouched coastline, and their communities where riches are measured by more than just money.