There is much that connects the Maori and the Hawaiian peoples. We have each dealt with histories of colonization and assimilation. We have each proven resilient in the face of adversity, striving to improve for current and future generations.

In New Zealand those great strides forward are seen in the way that some Maori trusts and incorporations today control and shape their own destiny with regard to geothermal resources. In part, this is thanks to the native-to-native model for development that we now use. It was introduced to us by Innovations Development Group (IDG) and Indigenous Consultants of Hawaii who have served us in an advisory capacity for several years.

We have enjoyed spending the last few days meeting with the community here in Hawaii and sharing our experience with geothermal energy. The Maori have used geothermal for generations for cooking, heating and healing. We share the mythology of the Hawaiian people and we certainly understand the desire not to disrespect Pele. Our legends speak of how the sisters of the great high priest Ngatoroirangi brought the fire of Hawaiiki to Aotearoa to give their brother warmth as he braved the freezing cold on the summit of the Tongariro mountains. The hot springs and geothermal spots we are blessed with mark their mythic journey.

Cultural and Economic Stewardship

Our Committee of Management are responsible for the protection of rights and discharge of obligations that come with administering the lands of Taheke 8C. We have a strong partnership with a large local geothermal developer – a relationship based upon mutual partnership and benefit. We recognize the native-to-native model, which reflects many of our shared and common goals. Our work with IDG (as members of our advisory team) is reflective of many of the arrangements we have made for the betterment of our people.

Get the Facts, Dismiss Unfounded Fears

We understand there are concerns here in Hawaii that stem from past experience, many of them negative. To the people of Hawaii we say: address those concerns with facts, not with fears. I was sorry to read reports of bills being moved forward to ban “fracking” in geothermal development. This is an example of how information gets distorted. The negative experience of natural gas extraction from shale is being conflated with what is done to get at the geothermal resource. Geothermal drilling is undertaken with great consideration of land and resource. It is not fracking as represented by others. Geothermal drilling has occurred in New Zealand in many landscapes including sensitive forests and our own farm lands. Maintenance and protection of the lands and the geothermal resource sustainably and appropriately is essential. We have continued to operate our farming and forestry operations with no harm.

Hawaii is fortunate to have local leaders who understand the lessons of the past and are determined to apply them to the future. If there is one lesson we have learned is that we all have to row in unison or we might find ourselves up the creek without a paddle! After all, we are all in the same waka (canoe) together.

Geothermal Technology Has Advanced Enormously

From what we have seen and heard, Hawaii is at a critical juncture in its efforts to free itself from its dependence on fossil fuels. Much depends on everyone recognizing that they have an obligation to get better informed. The technology for geothermal today is not what it was 20 years ago. It has improved by leaps and bounds, ensuring a level of safety with regard to the health of people and the environment. Those of you who care to visit our farm in New Zealand will see sheep grazing right next to where steam escapes from one of our geothermal wells. I dare say they welcome its warmth in winter! Certainly they appear as healthy as they have ever been. And to keep it that way, we are vigilant about monitoring air quality and emissions and have procedures in place to communicate and act promptly if the need should arise. We have had no safety incidents since we began operations.

We wish the people of Hawaii godspeed as you move towards embracing geothermal power as a firm power option to fossil fuels. We have seen its real, tangible benefits –and we hope you will too.

About the author: Sandra Eru is the general manager of The Proprietors of Taheke 8C and Adjoining Blocks Incorporation, a Maori organization with lands in Rotorua, New Zealand. She and the Chairman of the Incorporation, Tawhiri Morehu, were in Hawaii at the invitation of Innovations Development Group.

Video Courtesy IDG

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to