They may have no connection to the outside world but this couple is connecting whānau back to their whenua with one simple eco-friendly tip.

When Gerry Magner and wife Simone (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Maniapoto) set out to build a house it was a no-brainer decision to use solar power due to the remote location of their home in Ohakana Island in Whakatāne and Gerry's solar expertise.

But that was close to 20 years ago and the couple is now aiming to help other whānau reclaim their land through their solar system and experience.

"A lot of our customers are whānau wanting to get back onto their land. They're now thinking I can do that. I can establish a tiny home and actually power it."


She said the location of many homes meant for many whānau building was unaffordable due to the cost of new powerlines - a problem they faced when trying to build on a remote island.

The house is off the grid and run by solar power and a back-up battery. Photo / Supplied
The house is off the grid and run by solar power and a back-up battery. Photo / Supplied

But the couple turned their negative into a positive knowing as it was their land, they should be able to live there.

"Now our customers are just enjoying the freedom and they are not bound by huge power bills. They are thinking of different ways to heat their house," Simone said.

"People are really thinking about their needs."

And on the plus side, there is a benefit to the whenua (land) too.

Gerry, the brains behind the operation, developed his own solar system to find something suitable for his family.

The whole house is powered by solar and when the sun goes down a battery kicks in.

"We took a lot of time over the years perfecting it and getting the proper components which have led us to the stage we have our own system we are trying to get certification for at the moment," Gerry said.


"The beauty about this is you are actually the consumer but also the producer. You are the power company yourself."

Although he wouldn't consider himself an eco-warrior before this journey his mindset has since changed and believed others were too afraid to jump on board.

"Some people think we have gone back generations but we are actually moving forward because what we have done is cut out the modern stuff people are totally dependant on.

"And if everything went haywire we could eat comfortably because of the fish and our own kūmara."