A collective waiata timed with the rising sun rang out across the city's waterfront to launch the beginning of this year's Tauranga Arts Festival today.

The dawn chorus - Takiri Ko Te Ata - was the first event held as part of the biennial event. A choir of about 40 were led by local singer and songwriter Ria Hall in a rendition of a song she wrote for the event.

The group sang to a crowd of about 100 at the tidal stairs as the sun rose behind them, across Tauranga Harbour.

The choir sings at sunrise this morning to open the arts festival. Photo / John Borren
The choir sings at sunrise this morning to open the arts festival. Photo / John Borren

Festival chairwoman Kathryn Lellman said the dawn chorus was a special part of the 10-day event, especially because of the people involved.

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Ms Lellman said the choir was made up of "grass roots" individuals from all walks of life.

They were not professionals, but that was what made the event so special, she said.

"We think it's really important to us as a festival that we are connecting the tangata whenua and our diverse community, and it is something that pulls our people together."

Ms Lellman said the song was about the legacy of Mauao and the mythological fairies which come down from Hautere at night before being chased back up into the hills by the sun each morning. The waiata was composed by Hall and her cousin Taraania Ormsby-Teki.

"Ria is our first ever patron of the festival."

The choir officially opens the arts festival with waiata Takiri ko te Ata. Photo / John Borren
The choir officially opens the arts festival with waiata Takiri ko te Ata. Photo / John Borren

Hall will also perform in her own show in the festival - Rules of Engagement - based on local history.

Ms Lellman said she was looking forward to using the waterfront area more.

"There are lots of free events for everyone and we really want to bring the city alive and I think the moving of the Crystal Palace from Masonic Park to here [Tauranga waterfront] will really add to that."

Ria Hall leads a dawn chorus at Tauranga waterfront to launch this year's Tauranga Arts Festival. Photo/John Borren
Ria Hall leads a dawn chorus at Tauranga waterfront to launch this year's Tauranga Arts Festival. Photo/John Borren

Festival director Jo Bond said the dawn chorus was "perfect".

"It's performed by Ria Hall who is from Tauranga Moana and it involves everyone from the community so we think it really encompasses the values of the festival - to be for our community. So there's something for everybody to go to and people can be part of the festival as well."