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Helping indigenous communities with sustainable ‘power’

Press Release – Joint Press Release

Ngati Tahu and Contact Energy help indigenous communities take sustainable power into their own hands Ngati Tahu, a Bay of Plenty iwi, and Contact Energy have teamed up to share their experience in engaging indigenous communities in geothermal energy …
Ngati Tahu and Contact Energy help indigenous communities take sustainable ‘power’ into their own hands

Ngati Tahu, a Bay of Plenty iwi, and Contact Energy have teamed up to share their experience in engaging indigenous communities in geothermal energy projects as part of an exchange programme to Kenya funded by Power Africa.

Recognising the parallels between New Zealand and Kenyan indigenous cultural beliefs in geothermal activity, Power Africa and its partners, the United States Energy Association (USEA) and the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), facilitated a year-long exchange programme to share best-practice strategies with Kenyan power company, KenGen, to implement with local Maasai populations.

Representatives of Ngati Tahu and Contact recently returned from their second exchange to Kenya (and fourth exchange in total), where the team have been working with Maasai communities and KenGen, to support both parties in growing their relationships around the geothermal resource in Olkaria.

Aroha Campbell, a Trustee of the Ngati Tahu Tribal Lands Trust and member of the Ngati Tahu Landowners Collective, says indigenous communities have unique relationships and values when it comes to geothermal resources and the natural environment and that recognising this, alongside the unique aspirations of the community are critical to building meaningful relationships into the future.

“As an iwi we have a long history of working with energy companies, and we’ve learnt a lot. So for us this exchange was an opportunity to share our learnings, to support the Maasai build a more equal and empowering relationship with KenGen.”

“Ngati Tahu’s aspirations for our whanau and whenua are beyond just cultural. We have economic, social, and environmental aspirations that we want to realise. In building our relationship with Contact around the Ohaaki geothermal field we looked to this broad set of aspirations, and worked on how Contact and Ngati Tahu could work together towards achieving our individual and collective aspirations. This approach is what we shared in Kenya with the Maasai communities.” said Aroha.

While the relationship between Ngati Tahu and Contact has gone from strength to strength since the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two parties in 2013, the relationship has not always been positive.

Jacqui Nelson, GM Operations at Contact Energy said “we’ve learnt a lot over the years, both on what to do, and what not to do! It’s great to be recognised for our work in this space, but we’re mindful always that we’re also still learning.”

“The fact that New Zealand’s modern economy relies on geothermal energy for over 16% of its electricity generation means it is in everyone’s best interest to work harmoniously with the communities affected by power generation.

“Contact is incredibly proud to have been invited by Ngati Tahu and the United States Energy Association to share our experience for the benefit of Kenya’s indigenous Maasai tribes. The exchange has taught us even more, and has helped us further strengthen our relationship with Ngati Tahu.”

To the Maasai, areas of geothermal activity within Kenya’s Rift Valley hold cultural and spiritual significance, much like New Zealand’s Maori tribes who view geothermal resources as presenting more than simply a source of electricity but a sacred gift from the gods, used for centuries to prepare food, treat illness, and in religious ceremonies.

KenGen, the largest power producing company in Kenya, has developed over 500 MW of geothermal power generation at the Olkaria field near Naivasha, Kenya. In recent years KenGen, has encountered project delays or cancellations due to disagreements with tribal communities.
Olkaria, host to one of the world’s premier geothermal resources, is also home to a large population of Maasai.

From the exchange programme, the Maasai have developed a strategic plan to 2050 to support them to achieve their social, environmental, economic and cultural aspirations, and to support them to better engage with KenGen. KenGen is working towards formalising a new values based community engagement framework, and supporting the Maasai to build capacity towards achieving the aspirations articulated in their community strategic plan.

About Contact Energy
Contact is one of New Zealand’s largest electricity generators and retailers, powering over half a million homes and businesses across the country with electricity, natural gas and LPG, supported by a team of over 1,000 based in communities throughout New Zealand.

About the Exchange
Kenya is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies and requires continued growth in power generation capacity. Recognizing the parallels between New Zealand and Kenyan indigenous cultural beliefs in geothermal activity, Power Africa – a U.S. government-led partnership – and its partners (the US Energy Association) facilitated the partnership between KenGen, Contact Energy and Ngati Tahu.

Read more about the partnership here, including an overview of the exchange mission.

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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