Friday. 16/10/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / David Stevens

Premier attraction

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s an important election coming up. This Saturday I’m looking forward to waking up early, whipping up a classic Kiwi breakfast of spaghetti on toast and watching the results of New Zealand’s election roll in. I’m sure that you’ve already planned to do the same but, for those still wondering why they should care, here are a few pointers.

  1. New Zealand, along with a select few other countries including Germany, uses a mixed-member proportional (MMP) electoral system to give smaller parties a fairer shot at entering parliament. Before 2017, seven or eight different parties regularly took seats but polls this year are predicting just four. Is this the end of the MMP system’s effectiveness or the result of a popular leader pulling voters to the centre? Wait and see.

  2. The incumbent Labour Party, under the leadership of Jacinda Ardern (pictured), could become the first party to win a majority since MMP was introduced in 1996, highlighting the enduring popularity of brand Ardern through her measured responses to the Christchurch terrorist attacks and the global pandemic. Although recent polls suggest that a majority is less likely, there remains an outside chance that history could still be made. You wouldn’t want to miss that.

  3. Kiwis will weigh in on two referenda: the legalisation of recreational cannabis and voluntary euthanasia. The latter looks set to pass comfortably but the cannabis referendum is close. Will this be the year that New Zealand follows Canada’s lead on the topic and relaxes the laws?

  4. The first country to grant women the right to vote, in 1893, New Zealand has now become a pioneer in early voting. I delivered my voting papers weeks ago from London; as of Wednesday more than 1.5 million New Zealanders (out of nearly 3.5 million eligible) had cast their ballots too. The success of mail-in votes should serve as a knockout punch to those concerned about fraud, voter suppression or public health in an election. Are you watching America?

Travel / Switzerland

Tailored approach

As quarantine measures return to many countries this month, questions must be asked about how to live with the pandemic in the longer term. The canton of Bern, in a survey of local authorities conducted by the Swiss government, suggested another way. Gundekar Giebel, a spokesman for the canton’s health directorate, confirmed to local media that he challenged the efficacy of continuing to quarantine 2,700 people in his canton. With Bern itself reporting a record 290 new cases in 24 hours on Wednesday, he argued that it doesn’t make sense to quarantine people returning from other countries with a similar risk level. Bern instead proposes allowing returning travellers to go back to work, as long as they wear masks, get tested regularly and isolate if symptoms show. While it’s not a solution that catches all cases, it could offer an early-stage blueprint for how we might learn to live with the virus.

Automotive / Japan & China

Driving the future

One way to become a market leader is to create a market. That’s why Toyota has reportedly decided to provide Guangzhou Automobile Group in China with its gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle (HV) technology. The Japanese automobile giant already shares its HV system with domestic competitors Mazda and Subaru but this is the first time it has been passed across international borders. Although Toyota sold a record-high 1.62 million cars in China last year, its presence remains small, with 6 per cent of market share.

This year its electric vehicles also entered the Chinese market but had sold just 2,000 by the end of August. Now the groundwork is being laid for next year, as hybrids will count in the Chinese government’s subsidised low-emission category from 2021, and local car-makers are quickly shifting gear to more environmentally friendly models. Sharing clean technology isn’t just a clever soft-power tool for Japan and Toyota – it’s a handy business strategy too.

Urbanism / New Orleans

Bringing the house down

It seems that being the latest recipient of the Royal Institute of British Architects’ gold medal doesn’t spare your buildings from the bulldozer. That’s the experience of Tanzanian-born UK architect David Adjaye after a house that he designed on Reynes Street in New Orleans – for Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation in 2011 – was last month earmarked for demolition. The house has been deemed unsafe along with other homes commissioned by the foundation, many of which have been made uninhabitable due to poor construction. Make It Right has become caught up in a number of court battles over defective workmanship as a result. It’s a timely reminder that employing architects to oversee the design of a building means very little if they’re not backed up by good-quality construction. In this case, we’re still holding out hope that a world-class renovator might step in and save Adjaye’s edifice.

Design / Sweden

Sale or return

Ikea this week announced that next month it will launch a “buy back” scheme in 27 countries, allowing customers to return items, which will then be resold in shops as second-hand. It’s part of the world’s largest furniture-maker’s plan to become a fully circular and climate-friendly business by 2030. “We’re taking a big stand on fighting overconsumption and the obsession with products we don’t need,” Hege Sæbjørnsen, sustainability manager for Ikea UK & Ireland, told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “As a global company, we have an enormous opportunity to have an impact but also a responsibility to make a positive difference,” says Sæbjørnsen. Customers will have their furniture graded into three categories – “as new”, “very good” and “well used” – and will receive vouchers in return. “The voucher does not have an end-by date,” says Sæbjørnsen. “So it can be used only whenever someone really needs to come back and buy something new.” The catch? Products must be returned fully assembled.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Parley for the Oceans

This week, we meet Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans. Cyrill is a German designer and entrepreneur who started Parley in 2012 as a forum for creative industries to address major threats towards marine ecosystems. It’s had notable collaborations with Adidas, Anheuser-Busch InBev, American Express and the UN.

Monocle Films / Italy

Speciality retail: Verona

This Italian city has a long tradition of typography – and the business still has a story to tell. Letterpress workshop-cum-store Lino’s & Co updates old machines with 3D-printed movable type.

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