Rotorua, city of two languages

10:29 pm on 11 August 2017

Popular tourism destination Rotorua hopes to attract even more international interest by becoming officially bilingual.

Rotorua

Rotorua Photo: 123RF

The idea's proponents hope te reo Māori will become more visible in the city's most popular areas.

Te Tatau o Te Arawa, a Māori advisory board to the council, is leading the initiative. Its chair, Te Taru White, said it would boost the city's already strong cultural image and tourism scene.

"When you come into Rotorua, you can expect to see 'Rotorua - Bilingual City - nau mai haere mai'.

"You'll expect to see Māori signage - many of them will be added to, so the 'stop sign' might have 'taihoa' added to it. When you go into a cafe you might see some of the menus actually done in Māori. It just adds significant value to us culturally, socially and economically."

He said Rotorua was a hospitality centre, and greeting visitors in the indigenous language as well as the English language added to the tourism experience.

Mr White said it was also a chance for reo Māori champions in the community to help enhance people's understandings of kaupapa Māori and te reo Māori.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the cost of implementing the bilingual scheme would probably cost about $1 million.

Steve Chadwick, Mayor of Rotorua

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick Photo: Rotorua Lakes Council

She said that was a small price to pay for the increase in revenue they expected on top of the city's annual $20m tourism industry.

"It has a very big spin-off, as it has been proven overseas, and we are just going to start slowly and gently and bring people with us on this journey."

"For us, it acknowledges our history and our whakapapa and reinforces our reputation as the heartland of Māori culture."

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell has praised Rotorua for leading the way in becoming the first bilingual city in New Zealand.

Mr Flavell was in the city to unveil a plaque to mark the occasion and celebrate the bilingual initiatives throughout the city.

"Bilingual towns and cities are going to become more and more common, and that makes this 'first' all the more special. Acknowledgements must be made to Ōtaki and Wairoa who both signalled a desire to take up the notion of bilingual communities."

He said the government would work with Rotorua leaders to learn from their experiences and help pave the way for more bilingual towns and cities.