First Māori power company shares profits with whānau

By Jessica Tyson

Ezra Hirawani and Ben Armstrong have developed the first-ever Māori owned power company Nau Mai Rā. This company is different from the rest because instead of driving all of their profits to the big players in the power industry, they're sharing their profits to fund initiatives to benefit whānau.

Hirawani, (Tainui, Pare Hauraki) says the pair started the company to help solve what they call power poverty.

“We still have a lot of whānau coming to us, they have to use their stove or their oven to heat their whare and when you hear stories like this it just makes you think how is this still happening...

"It drives you, even more, to want to do things to help those whānau.”

Hirawani and Armstrong also started the company to reconnect themselves to Te Ao Māori, after feeling like it was missing from their own lives.

“We were talking about how can we reconnect but at the same time bring putea for our family and do things in a more collective and collaborative kind of way.

"And we sat down together, and we kind of said to each other, 'What if we use business as a tool to solve problems for our people?”

Ben Armstrong (Tainui, Ngāti Hine) says the company is built on two pou.

“Te Ora o te Whānau, so the wellbeing of whānau with helping them decrease their power bills and then the second is Koha Atu, Koha Mai which is the reciprocity side, giving back.”

Since starting in May 2019, the company's reach has spanned across at least seven regions including Northland, Auckland and Waikato.

“We have 250 whānau signed up with us but we have a waiting list of around 3,000. The reason why we haven't brought all 3,000 whānau on board is because we want to make sure that we grow this properly,” Armstrong says.

People can learn more about Nau Mai Rā by filling in a survey online.

“They come through the survey from our Facebook page and it helps give a debrief of what our kaupapa is about.

"It helps them understand that we give competitive pricing for our whānau but the ultimate side is giving back to kaupapa Māori like your marae,  kura kaupapa, kohanga reo.”

One of the community groups currently benefiting is Te Kura o Ōtangarei in Whangārei.

“It’s been an awesome journey so far which is helping to give putea back to their tamariki there,” Armstrong says. 

Their next push is to get more whānau involved in the business.

“Having communication teams in the regions, so actually going to places like Ōtangarei and setting up a little Hub where stay at home mother can contribute to the whare and work from home,” Hirawani says.

Nau Mai Rā is also set to launch in Wellington soon.