The Rotorua Fire Brigade is taking te reo seriously including re-branding a fire truck in full te reo Māori signage.

Rotorua assistant area commander Hamish Smith said Fire and Emergency New Zealand tried to reflect the communities it served.

"So when Rotorua went bilingual we thought about how we can support that.

"We've taken that quite seriously and it shows we can understand and reflect the culture of Rotorua."

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Several firefighters at the Rotorua station can speak te reo.

"We drafted an approval for full bilingual sign language to reflect that community move," Smith said.

Signage around the fire brigade has been changed, including all the office doors, the main reception and even on the fire truck.

The fire truck is the first of its kind in the country, it is complete with Māori artwork across the front and Te Rotoruanui ā-kahumatamomoe, Rotorua Fire Brigade, along the side.

Senior firefighters Marcus van der Heyden, Naki Wynyard and Walton Lee are pleased to see the Rotorua Fire Brigade embracing te reo. Photo / Stephen Parker
Senior firefighters Marcus van der Heyden, Naki Wynyard and Walton Lee are pleased to see the Rotorua Fire Brigade embracing te reo. Photo / Stephen Parker

Smith said he always knew "ahi" meant fire, but wanted to know more so recently took a 12-week te reo course.

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"It proved very beneficial in the job. I've always thought it would be good to learn and I managed to learn some basic phrases."

He said one of the important aspects of te reo in the fire brigade was sharing safety messages with the community.

"It's absolutely important when we have so many kura in our community that are full immersion.

"We can send out firefighters who are fluent in te reo and deliver our fire safety messages and programmes to everything."

Senior firefighter Walton Lee is one of the instructors who works with those schools.

"We have started going out to kura and kohanga reo and we can use a language they really understand."

Lee said during his time as a firefighter the number of Māori within the brigade had grown.

"That's been a big change over the last 20 years.

"Now obviously our trucks are the first in the country to have full te reo."

He said the fire service in general was moving forward in a positive direction to be inclusive of the Māori culture and language.