National | Power

Power to the people success - but 'not Māori enough'

After realigning the company last year to keep it from collapsing, Nau Mai Rā has launched a new kaupapa to help thousands more whānau out of 'power poverty'.

Kia Tuakana is aiming for 10,000 new customers by the end of the year in the hope that existing customers can help others achieve affordable power in their homes.

The pay-it-forward model will see 'tuakana' customers pay the same or less for power, while a portion of their bill goes toward whānau, who are known as customers who can’t pay their own right now.

Co-founder Ben Armstrong (Ngāti Hine, Waikato) says the concept is derived from the idea of having people helping others.

"I grew up in a pretty decent-sized whānau and being the youngest I knew I could depend on my older siblings when I needed that support.

"It means a lot more than that too. In a power sense, what Kia Tuakana means is someone who can afford to pay for their power, can help someone who can't."

Nau Mai Rā claims to have saved its customers over $100,000 since launching in 2019, with some of those customers passing on more than $40,000 of their savings to other Nau Mai Rā initiatives, including helping a Northland kura buya bus.

'Not Māori enough'

Fellow co-founder and Young New Zealander of the Year Ezra Hirawani says despite the company's intention to help Māori out of power poverty, and overcoming systemic barriers that "want to limit Māori participation", they have been accused of not being "Māori enough" by other Māori.

"The challenges of breaking through those two barriers on a day-to-day basis is really tough. But when we think about the 130,000 whānau in Aotearoa who can't afford to heat their homes, whānau like my grandmother, like Ben's whānau living in power poverty, it becomes a bigger task for us to overcome to achieve.

"We don't know where it comes from, and we're on our own te reo journey at the moment, and we're trying to reconnect with our culture, our whakapapa and all those kinds of things.

"t's probably the most hurtful to be fair, when you're just trying to do what's right for whānau, just like my nan and that's who we're trying to support. To hear that other stuff is pretty difficult at times, but we're trying to control what we can control."