Our mahi with Nau Mai Rā began after our co-founder Mihi came across their Facebook page. Two rangatahi from Hamilton, Ezra Hirawani and Ben Armstrong, were building a kaupapa Māori energy retailer with a mission to end power inequality in Aotearoa.
The pair didn’t yet have funding, or more than 300 customers, but their kaupapa was rock solid. Nau Mai Rā operates in the spirit of manaakitanga, allowing consumers to keep the lights on for vulnerable whānau through a pay-it-forward model. Māia began supporting Nau Mai Rā with pro-bono communication support in early 2021.
The first cab off the rank was an investigative piece by Jehan Casinader for Stuff – ‘Many of our energy assets are built on Māori land, so why do Māori disproportionately endure power poverty?’
This article opened countless doors for Nau Mai Rā, and in turn, vulnerable whānau. Consistent media and accolades followed. Ezra was awarded the Inspiring Stories Impact Award for Inclusion and received a $10,000 grant from the Manaaki U initiative. However, the uphill climb was far from over.
Soon after gaining momentum, Nau Mai Rā lost support from a major power generator, and were still failing to see commitment from Government. They were told supporting whānau wasn’t ‘commercially beneficial’, and were forced to drop 500 customers. However, Nau Mai Rā refused to step down. In June, Māia and Nau Mai Rā launched an Action Station petition imploring power generators and Government to work together in providing better electricity outcomes for vulnerable communities.
The petition gained over 3,000 signatures in two weeks, and in total gained over 4,000 signatures. The petition and dedicated media outreach received attention from major media including Te Ao, Waatea News, NBR, and NZHerald.
In early December, after months of petitioning, campaigning, and media appearances, Nau Mai Rā announced they secured a hedge that would allow them to take on 10,000 customers.
With funding from Te Pai Roa Tika, Māia and Nau Mai Rā developed a narrative and a strategy, titled “Stepping into your power” that set the roadmap for Nau Mai Rā to build on its successes to-date and navigate towards 10,000 customers.
Crucial to the kaupapa was the progression from leading the conversation on power poverty, to instead talking about power equality. The strategy takes cues from visionary leaders such as Martin Luther King, and allows all customers to feel part of the solution.
On the night of March 31, Ezra Hirawani was named the 2022 2022 Kiwibank Young New Zealander of The Year Te Mātātahi o Te Tau.
Going forward, Nau Mai Rā and Māia are working towards presenting a guiding document and concept that will steer Government, generators, retailers, iwi, and all tangata toward the common goal of achieving power equality in Aotearoa through the spirit of Manaakitanga.