Rotorua is set to become New Zealand's first bilingual city.

It comes after the Rotorua Lakes Council unanimously agreed to support the idea, drafted by Te Tatau o Te Arawa, with further support from Te Puni Kōkiri.

"This is the heartland of Māoridom," says Mayor Steve Chadwick. "37.5 per cent of our population identifies as being Māori.

"The other aspect that was a great building block for us, was the partnership with Te Arawa that we cemented in the first term of this council. That showed we have a strength of partnership at the council table, and without that I don't think we had the capacity to ever lead this initiative through council."


Te Tatau, which represents the diverse voices of Te Arawa and provides advice to the Lakes Council, will draft a report detailing work, associated costs and funding for the Bilingual Rotorua project.

"When you look around the landscape, when you look around the street names, it is already there. So the opportunity to uplift that landscape, bring those names into notice, create meanings to those names, how to pronounce them, and create new experiences for visitors in Rotorua is a great opportunity," says Te Tatau chairperson Te Taru White. "It's just heightening the experience, using a constitutional language as part of that leverage."

Mr White says Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell has been instrumental in moving the project forward.

The council signed a partnership agreement with Te Tatau o Te Arawa in December 2015, who are proud of the public response to the initiative.

"We've had quite a few approaches from local businesses wanting to engage so we want to keep momentum going. We will work on engaging with people who are interested now, but certainly... we are ensuring the next three years is well mapped out."

One of the businesses supporting the initiative is Third Place Cafe.

"We are fully supportive of Rotorua becoming bilingual," says owner Fiona Withers.

Ms Withers says Te Tatau o Te Arawa helped the cafe translate their menu's into te Reo - something that's been well received by locals.

Mayor Chadwick says there is also the possibility of producing a smartphone app that allows visitors to learn about the rich history of Rotorua.

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