Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Nau Mai Rā giving power to the people

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director

“If you care for people like we do and you believe that power is a right and not a privilege then come join us because  we could really use a hand helping those who really need us at this time,” says Ezra Hirawani.

Hirawani – who is Samoan on his mother’s side – set up kaupapa Māori energy retailer Nau Mai Rā with school mate Ben Armstrong in 2019. He says, part of the reason he set up the business was because of the number of people – many of whom are Maori and Pacific – who struggle to pay their power bills. 

“We started to discover social inequities that were within and so, from being something that would be really cool to do, has now turned into a mission to be able to eliminate energy hardship or power poverty for the 130,000 plus whānau that are in that situation and we believe that we can do that through an indigenous lens,”Ezra says.

“We want our power company to feel like a home, a home for us, a home for you. A home where we see people as a whānau rather than a money-making opportunities so, how can we create that within the industry so our name gives us a lot of purpose for what we are trying to do for not only whānau Māori, but for all whānau.”

Ezra was awarded the Young New Zealander of the Year award earlier this year.

Keen to help struggling families, Na Mai Rā customers basically pay it forward by giving some of their money to support a charity or a whānau who find it hard to pay their bills.

One customer, Andrea Fua in Manukau, switched to Nau Mai Rā to help lift other New Zealanders out of power hardship.

“I know what it’s like when you don’t have enough to pay for your power and the power cuts and to know that Nau Mai Rā don’t leave any whānau without power is massive and so I really back their kaupapa,” she says.

Winter is coming and, as heating bills go up, many households will feel the pinch and it can be a trying time for families. It’s something Nau Mai Rā co-founder Ben Armstrong has had firsthand experience with.

 “I’ve had, we’ve had a number of calls, Ezra as well, where we’ve heard them crying over the phone and gratitude for being able to help them keep their whare warm and we have those type of korero week in and week out,” Armstrong says.

Now three years on, they’ve kept the lights on for hundreds of vulnerable whanau and have even bought a bus for a Kura Kaupapa in Tai Tokerau.

“We’ve had a number of calls where we’ve heard them crying over the phone and gratitude for being able to help them keep their whare warm,” says Nau Mai Rā co-founder Benjamin Armstrong (pictured).

That’s what keeps Ezra energised, but it’s his Māori and Samoan up-bringing that has given him strong values.

“If ever we are scared, we are worried, we feel intimidated all we know we need to do is to lean back into where we come from, into those who believed in us who travelled multiple seas to give a life we have,” Ezra says, 

“And we think about the struggles they went through; the struggles of our day-to-day become really, really easy.”

 This year Ezra was named as the Kiwi Bank Young New Zealander of the Year for his efforts to combat the power struggle.

“We would love to say within the next five years that we have built a solution strong enough to eliminate power poverty because this issue’s been going on for decades,” he says. 

“It’s about time someone spoke about the white elephant in the room and we want to be those people that then works through the issues that it presents and then solves it.”

A solution that is so far bringing a bright future to many in Aotearoa. 

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