UC Young New Zealander of the Year named for 2022
Literally building a brighter future for Aotearoa, Ezra Hirawani is determined to find solutions for whānau without power and he has been recognised for his mahi with the 2022 University of Canterbury Young New Zealander of the Year Award – Te Mātātahi o te Tau.
Ezra co-founded Nau Mai Rā, a purpose-built, kaupapa Māori energy retailer, delivering affordable, “always-on” power after discovering how many families lived in power poverty.
An estimated 100,000 New Zealanders find it hard to pay for power. Poor credit ratings were leading to people being turned away from mainstream providers, rendering them literally powerless. Nau Mai Rā’s model, which asks customers to pay their bills weekly and cultivates mana-enhancing relationships, has resulted in steady payments and one of the industry’s lowest debt rates.
The company does not undertake credit checks or have a disconnection policy.
As an added incentive, a portion of each power bill goes to the customer’s local marae or a nominated community initiative. Alternatively, it can be placed into a “whānau fund” to help families in extreme financial hardship. In the two years since Nau Mai Rā launched, it has partnered with the Ministry of Social Development and secured a long-term competitive supply agreement with the intention of reducing power prices.
“Ezra’s initiative in response to a clear need for whānau across Aotearoa New Zealand without power has had an incredible impact on many lives, and that is something to be proud of,” says the University of Canterbury’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey.
“Nau Mai Rā is truly building a brighter future in Aotearoa, and it’s inspiring to see a business modelled on creating mana-enhancing relationships within our community.
“I would like to congratulate every young person who has been recognised as a semi-finalist and finalist of this year’s award. Your mahi matters, and this recognition is one small step in your inspirational journey of making a better world for us all.”