Bilingual Rotorua is entering into its first phase - with bilingual signage at city entrances and the creation of te reo zones in playgrounds and reserves among the first steps.

At a Rotorua Lakes Council Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee meeting last week Te Tatau o Te Arawa chief executive Te Taru White and lawyer Kerri Anne Hancock presented the business case for Rotorua Reorua (Bilingual Rotorua).

In August Rotorua was declared New Zealand's first bilingual city.

White said he was proud to present te ara kokiri - the work plan - to integrate te reo into Rotorua.

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"Since the launch in August we've been heartened by the momentum that has been created out there, but having said that, we didn't want to get caught up in the excitement without actually making sure we planned this well.

"This has got to be resilient and it has to endure."

He said Te Tatau o Te Arawa, alongside the council and Te Puni Kokiri, had been analysing the costs, risks, the opportunities and the values a bilingual city could create.

"We wanted to shape what a business case might look like and identify the resources necessary to make this thing drive.

"There were some concerns about the costs, and rightly so. We had to identify where those were going to come from."

Hancock said by looking at local and international examples they were able to come up with a two-phase plan to develop a bilingual city.

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14 Aug, 2017 4:00am
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"Looking at Galway (in Ireland), which is probably the closest to what we have here in Rotorua they, just as an indicator, they started in 1987 and they're still working to really perfect it."

She said the first phase was about trying to get some "some wins on the board" by increasing the visual impact and the exposure.

"Doing it in a way that really draws on the current resources within the city, and our strengths and what central government have already done and putting it together in a nice quick package."

Phase one includes creating a digital hub for businesses, community groups and individuals to get resources and information, bilingual signage at the city entrances and the creation of Reorua zones in playgrounds and reserves.

Te Tatau o Te Arawa will work with council staff to create the policy and Toi Ohomai and the council are working together to promote easy te reo Maori classes for the community.

Phase two of the plan is creating a longer term strategy for Reorua.

"It is really about fully understanding the needs of our community," Hancock said.

"How we can enable and empower the community to really create a sustainable Rotorua Reorua. It's not just Te Arawa it's not just the council, it's all of us."

The budget for the business plan adapted by the council is $100,000.

Financial support of $80,000 has been proposed by Te Puni Kokiri and initial discussions are that the funding provided from the Government should cover the remainder.

However, if required the council will work with Te Tatau o Te Arawa to bridge the gap.

"We've had everybody from the fire brigade, the police, hotels, cafeterias, knocking on our door wanting to do Rotorua Reorua in their business," White said.

"The target is to normalise bilingualism in Rotorua over the next three years."

He said it was definitely possible for phase one and two to be achieved by August next year.

Hancock said the money pledged by Te Puni Kokiri would enable Te Tatau o Te Arawa to appoint a project manager and get things under way.

The council will contribute the staff to draft the te reo Maori policy, the creation of bilingual signage, the creation of te reo Maori zones and promotion of Reorua through their existing communication materials.

Council chief executive Geoff Williams said the council was very much on a learning curve with this, as much as anyone else.

"We are starting to recognise, when we're dealing with iwi, that translation can happen two ways.

"The ability to communicate and agree matters which are sometimes quite challenging and quite difficult can be eased through the use of te reo Maori internally in our organisation."