Iwi-owned sustainable energy company is installing the country's biggest marae-based solar network

SEANZ member Tū Mai Rā Energy is completing the Tau Henare Marae project in remote Pipiwai, and working with another Māori company to offer discounted power to neighbours.

A lower North Island iwi-owned sustainable energy company is installing the biggest marae-based solar network in the country with the potential to power a whole Northland village.
Tū Mai Rā Energy is completing the Tau Henare Marae project in remote Pipiwai, and working with another Māori company to offer discounted power to neighbours.
Electricity from the 150kwh system would be offered to at least 80 homes through a process called peer-to-peer power-sharing.
Māori power retail company Nau Mai Rā would take care of sales and distribution.

Chairman of Tau Henare Marae Len Bristowe​ said the main benefit of the solar installation was a reduction in energy costs for their community.
“That’s the drive behind all of this, because power keeps on climbing. Hopefully it’ll reduce power bills by half.”

Bristowe said the people in Pipiwai were excited about the prospect of cheaper power but had their reservations to begin with.
“When we first initiated this the people in the community were all wary, because this is something new, especially in the Māori community where we live.”

The marae secured Government funding for the project from an MBIE Māori and Public Housing Renewable Energy Fund.

Tū Mai Rā Energy is a business borne out of a Waitangi Tribunal settlement for lower North Island Rangitāne iwi, and was formed to provide sustainable energy solutions.

One of its directors, Darrin Apanui,​ said the team was excited about completing the largest array of solar for a marae in New Zealand.

“A lot of our working is outside the region because solar is not regional based, it will be wherever the client is.”

Tū Mai Rā Energy was registered in 2020 following two years of research and feasibility into the sustainable energy sector by its parent Tū Mai Rā Investments.
Apanui said following the feasibility work, the board of Tū Mai Rā Investments agreed to commit $1million to ensure its new subsidiary had every chance of succeeding.

“Not only was it formed to create a commercial return to the iwi, but to also develop Rangitāne members to become electricians, solar engineers and designers.
“From its early beginnings of two directors and a general manager, two years on we now employ 10 Māori in the areas of electricians, apprentices and sales.”

The company has completed a variety of installations including the largest commercial building install in Rotorua and various papakāinga, kura and residential installations.

Apanui said they were planning major projects in their Wairarapa and Tararua rohe of Masterton and Dannevirke respectively.
Iwi businesses were a growing force in the economic landscape, but it could be a tricky line between holding true to Māori values and making profits for its community owners.

Apanui said the iwi’s choice to invest in a sustainable energy company fitted with their guiding principles.

He said their iwi had invested in four channels including shares and funds, sustainable businesses, high value food and nutrition, and property.

“It’s about intergenerational opportunity... make certain our people have warm places to live that they can call their own, make certain our people have the opportunity to take onboard the nourishment that they need, and give them the opportunity for jobs through property and energy.”

First published here.