Powering one town’s clean energy transformation

Image of people planting trees
© Energise Ōtaki
Success Story

Energise Ōtaki is a charity working to transform how the local community gets and uses energy, with the goal of turning Ōtaki fully carbon-neutral by 2035.

Native tree planting, bike repair services, and practical advice sessions to help locals become more energy efficient are just some of the projects Energise Ōtaki runs as part of its drive to bring the town’s carbon emissions down and support locals in using energy well.

It also manages Aotearoa New Zealand’s first ever community-owned solar farm, which powers the Ōtaki wastewater treatment plant and supplies Ōtaki College with clean energy.

Any excess power from the solar farm is sold back to the grid and its proceeds go into a fund for supporting other local energy projects. These are as diverse as school food gardens/māra kai, through to setting up pilot workshops to teach locals how to make their own solar panels at home.

Through the Community Conservation Fund, WWF-New Zealand and the Tindall Foundation are supporting Energise Ōtaki in its multi-faceted energy journey.

Funding will go towards the charity’s vital work to plant more native trees across Ōtaki.

While Energise Ōtaki’s initial focus is on reducing the amount of carbon produced by residents, it’s planning to absorb the remainder of the town’s unavoidable carbon dioxide emissions through planting 32 hectares of trees over the next decade.

The project already has over 20 percent of the trees it needs to offset the town’s carbon emissions by 2035 – and it’s less than a year old.

The trees will also help to enhance Ōtaki’s biodiversity, provide a food source for birds and insects, and improve the health of the town’s water and soils.

The funding from WWF and the Tindall Foundation will also contribute to Energise Ōtaki’s work to improve energy efficiency in homes across the town.

The charity helps homeowners and renters to improve their home heating and insulation, and tackle draughts and mould.

A healthy homes expert visits residents and provides practical information and support – and in some cases, minor repairs – to enhance their energy efficiency.

Energise Ōtaki is one of the 19 initiatives WWF-New Zealand, in partnership with the Tindall Foundation, is supporting this year through the Community Conservation Fund. 

The Fund supports local communities to run projects that conserve and restore Aotearoa’s natural environment, while also educating Kiwis about its importance.