A crowd of people braved the cold for the official opening of Rotorua's first bilingual playground, but the most important ones there were the tamariki.

The upgraded playground in the Government Gardens was opened before dawn today. It is part of Rotorua Reorua (bilingual Rotorua) which was launched last August and is being led by Te Tatau o Te Arawa.

At the opening Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White said the bilingual playground was a small step for the day but a big step in their bilingual journey.

"Our community wants to learn the language and understand the stories about Rotorua in a safe and inclusive environment. They are hungry to learn about our district's identity and what makes us unique," White said.


The playground was named Taikākā by local Kanapu Rangitauira who said it meant 'heartwood'.

"I used that word to apply to the Māori language which is like the heartwood of the tree of our culture, and also to apply to the people in our community who are quite staunchly committed to speaking and learning te reo Māori," he said.

"This is a space for all of us to go to learn te reo Māori and speak te reo Māori with our tamariki."

The playground has bilingual signage and the Māori names of things like birds and colours.

It also has interactive signs with barcodes which can be scanned to open a website with information about history and traditional games.

Mayor Steve Chadwick said the playground was an exciting place.

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"We are developing a vibrant, colourful future for our tamariki and mokopuna. We'll all come down here and I'll hear te reo, I'll experience it and I'll start to use it more and more and that's what our visitors will do too."

Ngāti Whakaue orator Kingi Biddle said language was vital.

"Language is the doorway to the world a person lives in. If you want to know the world a person lives in, learn their language," he said.

"Language is not useful, it is meaningful."

Bilingual signage for other playgrounds and reserves in Rotorua will gradually be implemented as or when improvements or upgrades happen.

The playground upgrade cost roughly $30,000. A third was funded by Ngāti Whakaue Education Endowment with $20,000 coming from the council's park maintenance budget.