Plans for road signs in te reo in Rotorua are under threat after the NZ Transport Agency allegedly ruled warning signs had to be in English, Fairfax reports.

Rotorua Lakes Council has proposed signage at road entrances to the city with 'Haere Mai Ki Rotorua', also declaring in English 'NZ's first bilingual city' with the speed limit, but according to Fairfax, NZTA told the council that under the Land Transport Rule: Traffic Control Devices 2004, the sign had to be written in English.

Rotorua officially became the first bilingual city in Aotearoa in August last year.

Te Tatau o Te Arawa led the initiative with support from the council and Te Puni Kokiri.

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Councillors unanimously supported the idea of becoming a bilingual city and backed Te Tatau o Te Arawa taking charge of the project.

Transport Agency director of safety and environment Harry Wilson said today that the issue "specifically relates to the sign needing to serve as an effective and legally enforceable speed limit warning sign".

"The current regulations already permit guide signs, tourist signs and general interest signs to be bilingual. The Transport Agency has previously communicated this to Rotorua Lakes Council.

"The NZ Transport Agency respects and values the importance of te reo Maori as one of our country's official languages, and we are working with local councils to incorporate bilingual road signage while achieving safety outcomes.

"While the current traffic regulations would not permit the combined speed limit/welcome sign proposed for Rotorua in its current form, we are working with Rotorua Lakes Council to develop and trial a bilingual entrance sign which will help to promote Rotorua as a bilingual city. The bilingual speed limit gateway sign format could then be incorporated into traffic regulations to become a standard option for other councils to adopt."