Spotlight on completed projects

The Māori and Public Housing Renewable Energy Fund was set up in 2020 to trial renewable energy solutions that aimed to improve energy affordability, and help create warm, healthy and energy efficient homes.

On this page:

The funding was shared between a solar panel trial on public homes by Kāinga Ora, and 49 small-scale projects delivered by third parties to support Māori households in need. Funding for the Māori Housing part of the Fund was allocated by MBIE. The majority of installations are expected to be complete by the end of 2024.

Public Housing Renewable Energy Fund

Kāinga Ora is trialling solar panels on selected public homes in 11 centres across the country, with the aim of installing solar panels on 750 homes by mid-2024.

The trial is helping ease power costs for low-income households as the solar panels generate power that customers can use at no extra charge, keeping bills down.

Cost savings vary between households, depending on the type of system installed and the household’s energy use. Kāinga Ora estimates households should be able to save between $460 and $1,000 a year on their power bills.

Kāinga Ora is also implementing an innovative Multiple Trading Trial in Wellington, which will allow it to generate revenue from the exported electricity, with the intention of sharing the benefit of the solar panels with a wider group of customers.

Solar Trial with Alec Tang(external link) — Kāinga Ora Vimeo channel

Māori Housing Renewable Energy Fund

Since 2020, the Māori Housing Renewable Energy Fund has supported 49 small, localised clean energy projects bringing more affordable power and greater energy resilience to an estimated 1,270 Māori households. Some of these projects are described below.

Te Arawa Whānau Ora Charitable Trust, ‘Whiti Te Rā: Supporting whānau to be empowered through solar energy’

2 people stand outside of a home with rooftop solar panels.

50 whānau members, across 14 households in Rotorua have been enjoying cheaper power since the solar energy project by Te Arawa Whānau Ora Charitable Trust was completed in February 2022.

Te Arawa Whānau Ora is a Kaupapa Māori health support services collective and works closely with whānau in need in the Te Arawa rohe. When selecting households, it prioritised households with kaumātua, hapū māmā and tamariki.

The Trust commissioned Tū Mai Rā Energy to install 310-watt solar panels on each whare after receiving $150,000 from the Māori Housing Renewable Energy Fund. 

The Trust reports the monthly electricity costs have reduced by an average of $100, which means each household is receiving savings of between 30% and 50%.

Te Arawa Whānau Ora Group Manager – Design and Innovation, Amanda Uri said: “With the savings, one of these households has been able to install a heat pump, which is the cheapest, most efficient way to heat the home to a healthy temperature. Others are feeling more confident about heating their home without worrying about the cost – no doubt to the benefit of their overall health and wellbeing.”

Some whānau members say with less financial stress, they’re no longer having to cut back on essentials, they can heat more than one room in winter, and the “feeling of being comfortable provides peace of mind”.

The Trust also ran 3 wānanga to teach whānau about energy use and costs, and how to make homes more energy efficient. Amanda says this additional education component helps whānau realise the full benefits of more affordable energy.

Ngāti Uenukukōpako Iwi Trust, ‘Whakapoungakau Iwi Geothermal Energy Grid’

Whakapoungakau Iwi Geothermal Energy Grid

Visitors at the formal opening of the new whare that are now connected to the geothermal heating and hot water system.

A hapū initiative to take advantage of the local geothermal resource is helping residents of 15 whānau at Kakahoroa Papakāinga heat their homes and hot water.

Ngāti Uenukukōpako Iwi Trust received funding from the Māori Housing Renewable Energy Fund to install closed-loop ground-source heat pump systems at the papakāinga. The systems tap into the underground collector fields within the papakāinga whenua and the heat pumps provide the whare with space heating and hot water heating.

The Trust’s Chair Nireaha Pirika said the Trust researched various types of technology, but the closed-loop system was a “game changer” as it uses underground heat, rather than drawing on the geothermal water, which meant there was no impact on the Lake Rotokawa geothermal field.

Some of the more unique pieces of equipment had to be imported for the project, which took about 6 months to complete.

Overall, the Trust estimates the system will reduce electricity costs of the papakāinga by around $20,000 a year. Crucially, the heating systems means residents can maintain a healthy temperature in the homes while saving on their power bills.

The Trust’s Chair Nireaha Pirika said: “What we have started here is something to be proud of... that we are actually providing warm, dry houses for our hapū.”

Ngāti Uenukukōpako Iwi Trustee Ralph Mosen said: “Whānau at Kakahoroa love the heating system... and they love the fact they are warm, even on the coldest of days. Without a doubt, our whānau and their tamariki will have much improved health outcomes living in warm dry homes.

Mr Pirika said having a geothermal heating system was always on the Trust’s “wish list”, especially as the Rotokawa geothermal field, which the papakāinga rests on, is one of the most active in the area. But without government funding, this aspiration most likely would not have eventuated.

The Trust developed the papakāinga Kakahoroa to provide housing to whānau, including, many parents and children who had been living in emergency accommodation motels.

The Trust is planning its next papakāinga to provide accommodation to other whānau in need.

The Lines Company and Te Nehenehenui, ‘Maniapoto Marae Solar Solutions’

Partnership is at the core of the marae-based solar energy project by The Lines Company and Te Nehenehenui, the newly formed Post-Settlement Governance Entity on behalf of Maniapoto iwi members.

The 2 worked together alongside Aotahi Limited, to develop a solar project that was grounded in kaupapa Māori principles to help improve energy inequity for Māori in the South Waikato coastal settlement of Mōkau.

With funding from the Māori Housing Renewable Energy Fund, they installed 56 solar panels on the wharekai at Māniaora Marae, which lies at the heart of Mōkau.

The 18kW solar array generates power for the marae. Any energy not used by the marae is shared through a peer-to-peer trading platform to power the households of 5 kaumātua or kuia associated with the marae.

On average, 71% of the energy of these households is gifted from the marae, creating savings of about $100 a month for each household.

In addition to the immediate cost savings, the marae is set up in the long term as the owner of the solar panels.  

Those at the marae and The Lines Company also held hui for participating households to help them maximise the benefits of the project. This included information on how to be more energy efficient around the home and reduce their energy bills.

Te Nehenehenui chief executive officer Sam Mikaere said renewable energy is a great option in Aotearoa.

“As Māori, we always reflect on our values around kaitiakitanga. The ability to create our own form of energy and to be able to share that around the local area to our whānau. It works for us. It’s all about whanaungatanga. It’s about kotahitanga,” he said.

The Lines Company Project Manager Kyle Barnes said the company wanted to adapt from the typical business model and become more community focused.

“In the past we’ve all been working in our silos trying to solve similar problems. To have the opportunity to sit down with Te Nehenehenui Trust and use all of our skills together on one project means we get the best outcome,” he said. 

Funding also supported a second marae-based solar project in Ōtorohanga by The Lines Company that is seeing similar positive results for participating whānau and the marae.

These 2 projects have informed the company’s third solar project in Tūrangi that focuses on powering hot water cylinders, and which has been supported by the third round of the Māori Housing Renewable Energy Fund. 

TLC Solar Project - NEG(external link) — The Lines Company Te Kūiti YouTube channel

Waingākau Housing Development Ltd and Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, ‘Waingākau Renewable Energy Project’

Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga’s vision behind its Waingākau Housing Development in Flaxmere is to build a thriving, positive and nurturing community.

Its goal is to support whānau Māori into home ownership by building more than 100 healthy homes that are passively warm, dry, healthy, safe and energy efficient.

The project began in 2019, and Stages 1 to 6 are expected to be completed in 2027, with a further 2.28 hectares to be developed into housing in Stage 7. In May 2021, $150,000 of funding from the Māori Housing Renewable Energy Fund was allocated to install solar panels to help make the most of the clever, energy-saving design of 9 of the homes.

Mike Paku, Chair of Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, said these 9 households started seeing lower power bills as soon as the solar panels were connected, with one whānau getting their power bill down to $40 one month.

“In addition, we have championed every opportunity to bring down costs to heat homes at Waingākau, from special insulated flooring, double-glazing, mechanical ventilation. We call this Haukāinga Hauora, a healthy home,” Mr Paku said.

Having access to cheaper power can encourage households to use more heating in the colder months, which can lead to warmer, healthier homes and better health.

Waingākau Housing Development Project Manager James Lyver said some of the households are more “energised and excited” to receive their next monthly power bill. 

“They want to see if it’s cheaper than the previous month. This has a triple bottom line, as whānau are now changing their household behaviours, as they see direct benefits and as a flow-on effect to neighbours. They also are strong advocates for solar for others in the community – the positive kōrero reaches far and wide,” he said.

Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga aims to support local Māori businesses to help achieve its housing aspirations. Of its 120+ partners, about 86% are Māori.

Tūhua Trust, ‘Tūhua (Mayor Island) Solar Power Project’

Tuhua Trust

Chairman/Trustee (digger owner and operator) Pana Rangitaawa and Kaitiaki Victoria Harimate celebrating completion of the installation.

A solar energy project on Tūhua (Mayor Island) in the Bay of Plenty is enhancing energy independence and lowering costs, while also having long-term environmental benefits. 

Tūhua has wildlife refuge status and its northern coastline is a marine reserve, and the remainder of the island’s coastline has restricted fishing status. 2 kaitiaki permanently live on the island, and visitors often make the trip from the mainland to enjoy the island’s natural beauty and wildlife.

Tūhua is the largest offshore Island in the Bay of Plenty, totally Māori owned, predator-free and has the largest single continuous area of pōhutukawa canopy in the country. It is home to many endangered species including kiwi, tuatara, pāteke, toutouwai, kākā, kererū, korimako and pōpokatea.

Up until November 2021, power was supplied to the island via generators, with petrol and gas bottles being taken across by boat at least once a month, at great expense to the Tūhua Trust Board that is responsible for the island management on behalf of some 1,500 owners of Te Whānau a Tauwhao, a hapū of Ngāi Te Rangi Iwi.

In 2021, the Trust received $100,000 from round 1 of the Māori Housing Renewable Energy Fund to install solar PV and batteries to power 3 houses and ancillary buildings. 

Unlike the other funded projects, this one came with additional logistical challenges, such as biosecurity checks for the installation team and their machinery, hiring a barge to transport equipment, and navigating the dense pōhutukawa roots when digging trenches for the cables.

Trustee Magda Williams said: “Solar installation has been ground-breaking and life-changing on a number of fronts, especially regarding health and safety of our kaitiaki and visitors alike.

 “We now have proper food refrigeration and storage, adequate lighting, continued power supply and charging of electronics especially communication devices, essential for our remote moutere (island) that is located 15 kilometres seaward from the closest landfall at Whiritoa, Coromandel,” she said.

Kokohinau Marae Papakāinga Trust, ‘Kokohinau Papākainga Project’

Image shows: Some of the Hunt family in front of their home that’s set up with solar panels and batteries to provide more affordable power.

7 homes associated with the Kokohinau Marae in the Bay of Plenty settlement of Te Teko are now powered by solar energy, after Kokohinau Papakāinga Trust received $345,000 in the first funding round of the Māori Housing Renewable Energy Fund.

The Trust used the funding to install solar panels and lithium-ion batteries to the 5 papakāinga homes and 2 nearby homes associated with the marae.

The solar power set up provides clean, more affordable power to the residents, making it easier for the kaumātua and whānau in the homes to keep warm in the winter and get the power they need without worrying about the cost.

Each home is fitted with an inverter enabling residents to see their real-time electricity use and where savings could be made.

Trust chair Hemana Eruera said the 5 houses with solar panels have been “the envy of many visitors locally and nationally who have visited the site” and the Trust has been overwhelmed by inquiries.

“The outcome of the funding and installation can be attributed to MBIE and Tū Mai Ra Energy and is totally appreciated by the Kōkōhīnau Papakāinga Trust and their fortunate tenants. Overall it has been a truly successful partnership.”

Mr Eruera summed up with his adaption to the following quote:

“Ehara tāku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. Our success has not been ours alone, but due to the generous contribution of others.”

On of the residents said: “We are a whānau of 4 and our solar power has provided our whānau with cheap power, even with the use of our heat pump and air conditioning, which saves us a lot to our pocket monthly.”

The Trust built the homes to provide accommodation for those displaced by the 2017 Edgecumbe floods. Mr Eruera said those residents had since found more permanent accommodation and the Trust planned to build further houses nearby to house people in need.

Mr Eruera said Tū Mai Ra Energy, the Māori-owned energy solutions company that installed the equipment, has done a “magnificent” job. Tū Mai Ra Energy also ran workshops so residents know how to use data from their home inverters to be more energy efficient.

Last updated: 18 January 2024