A local man is campaigning to make Tauranga the first bilingual city in New Zealand.

Plans include making signs in public places in both English and te reo Maori, and encouraging local businesses to say say "kia ora".

Moana radio host Pat Spellman sat down yesterday with iwi, Tauranga City councillors and Creative Tauranga to gain support for his project Tauranga Te Reo - Our Te Reo Friendly City.

Mr Spellman said there were three goals of the project.

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"The first is embracing the diversity that makes our city special, the second is assisting with basic knowledge and understanding of te reo Maori and the third is to bring the city together."

Mr Spellman said the project would include three tiers. The first would be to make signs bilingual in public spaces such as The Strand, the library and then notable landmarks and placing emphasis on te reo Maori throughout the community.

The second tier would be making the first and last impressions of the city to be in te reo Maori, he said. "The welcome and farewell signs, again it's probably an extension of the first tier but it is important we get those signs up."

Mr Spellman said the third tier would be championing the use of the greeting "kia ora".

"Calling it the Kia Ora Pledge, that is mainly in our CBD businesses, that's going to be the biggie. My goal is going to get everybody on board."

Mr Spellman said the project would take form through plaques being placed around the city centre with English and Maori names being used, side by side. "Underneath the names would be a really friendly way on how you can use the Maori word in a sentence."

He said the next step in the project would be to go out with his concept to different businesses and organisations to raise funds.

The project would be funded through the iwi and fundraising with "no ratepayers' money at all," Mr Spellman said. The biggest challenge for people in Tauranga was not knowing enough about the Maori culture, which was one of the biggest pushes behind the idea, he said.

The motivation for the project had come from a trip to Hawaii last year where he was greeted in the airport with "Aloha" and given a Hawaiian lei.

"The first thing we get in Tauranga is 'Hello, how are you?' and that's it."

Ngai Te Rangi chairman Charlie Tawhiao said he was behind the idea because Maori was the indigenous language of New Zealand. "It's the thing that sets New Zealand apart from anywhere else in the world and bilingual signage would say that for a start.

"It says we are in New Zealand, this is the indigenous language and this is our place."

Mr Tawhiao said the project would also acknowledge the importance of Maori language in New Zealand culture. "The same way the haka is now performed by New Zealanders all over the world, 20 years ago that would have not been the case.

"We need to make this happen as Maori language is not respected enough in New Zealand; unless it is used more, it won't survive. This is about branding New Zealand as a nation of its own."

The bilingual signs will just be another step along that path of us growing up as a nation, he said.

"But, more importantly, of us growing up as a city."

Mt Maunganui and Papamoa Councillor Clayton Mitchell said it was a great idea as it "gives us a better identity".

However, Mr Mitchell said he did not think the idea should be used by other cities in New Zealand so that Tauranga could enjoy a unique cultural flavour. "It would be our point of difference."

The idea of iwi paying for the project was a good way to give back to the community, he said.

Mr Spellman said it was his goal to have the project up and running in Maori Language week from July 21 to 27.

"This is absolutely going to happen."