Young people and their families spent time in a warm, whānau environment today at the inaugural Rotorua Youth Festival.

The festival combines sport, health and well-being, music, arts and culture as well as education and career pathways for youth.

Puketawhero Park hosted the festival for the first time today. The festival started at 10am and runs until 7.30pm.

There are live kapa haka performances, three-a-side basketball, a rugby league nines tournament, a slip and slide and community organisations.

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E Tū Whānau senior advisor and event organiser Sasho Stosic (Ngāti Rongomai) said by combining the festival with sports it would help kids grow and develop.

Cezzem Payne, 11, has fun on the slip and slide. Photo / Ben Fraser
Cezzem Payne, 11, has fun on the slip and slide. Photo / Ben Fraser

"They are the potential leaders of our future.

"It's all about manaakitanga, whanaungatanga and opportunities for our rangatahi.

"It's an opportunity to be connected to their community, environment and culture.

"Manaakitanga is about us supporting rangatahi in this environment, one that's filled with aroha and support."

Stosic said they had questioned whether to go ahead with the festival in the wake of the Christchurch shootings but ultimately decided to.

Rotorua youth festival facilitators Rachel Tatton, (left) Harina Rupapera and Sasho Stosic. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rotorua youth festival facilitators Rachel Tatton, (left) Harina Rupapera and Sasho Stosic. Photo / Stephen Parker

"These acts of violence incite fear, but to live in fear is not to be who we truly are.

"As much as there's a question about if we should go ahead today it's about whanaungatanga. We've got a safe environment here to enjoy and it's an opportunity to stand strong. This is what aroha represents for us."

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Stosic hoped in future years rangatahi would take over organising the festival and grow it.

Stacey Miringaorangi was at the festival with her family including three children and said the festival had a warm, whānau environment.

"We always like to take a look at local events and support anything to do with the growth of rangatahi and anything that comes from a te ao Māori perspective.

"I feel like it's ready to roar it's got all the potential."