National | Power

Kaupapa Māori energy businessman wins Young New Zealander of the Year

The founder of kaupapa Māori electric company Nau Mai Rā Ezra Hirawani (Te Āti Haunui-a-Paparangi, Ngāti Rangi, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hako, Waikato Tainui)  was named Young New Zealander of the Year last night at the first virtually-held New Zealander of the Year Awards.

Nau Mai Rā was set up by Hirawani and co-founder Benjamin Armstrong (Waikato Tainui/Ngāti Hine), to provide inexpensive, "always-on" electricity for many whānau.

Speaking te Te Ao Tapatahi earlier today, Hirawani said he was overwhelmed when he saw he was made this year's Te Mātātahi o Te Tau winner.

“I haven’t won many awards in the past so to be recognised in this way is quite overwhelming but just a really good opportunity to get our kaupapa with more people who might be able to help us achieve what we’re trying to do, so we’re really grateful.”

Hirawani is also heading a new campaign for Nau Mai Rā to gain 10,000 more customers before winter, which focuses on change from “power poverty to a position of power”.

Hirawani says the more whānau who jump on board, the faster the issue of power poverty can be eliminated.

'For our whānau'

“We hope that 10,000 whānau helping us paddling on the waka will help us do that. It equates to about $20,000 and a really conservative estimate would be contributed to vulnerable consumers who won’t be able to heat their homes this year or just in general.”

Looking to his own household, as a father to three daughters and another on the way with his wife, Hirawani says he would hate to be in a position of choosing to cook or keeping his whānau warm, and it’s how the inspiration for Nau Mai Rā came about.

“It’s heartbreaking to me and also whānau in different positions living in power poverty.

“When I thought about it on a personal perspective, after being exposed to a lot of these social inequities within the power industry, it was almost like the inspiration came out of obligation. Because we knew what we knew, we had to change what we were doing.

“To be fair, [we’re] completely underqualified but no one else was doing so we had to get in there and do our thing for our whānau.”