Revitalising te reo Māori - not just stabilising it - is the responsibility of each generation and all cultures, Rotorua leaders say.
Their comments come as the country starts its week-long celebration of the Māori language - Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori.
The 2019 theme is Kia Kaha te Reo Māori - Let's make the Māori language strong; something many in Rotorua advocate.
But there is still more to be done if the language is to be truly reincorporated into modern New Zealand life.
According to the most up to date figures from the 2013 census, 39,460 people in the Bay of Plenty are keeping the language strong.
Of that, there are 6828 speakers in Rotorua, 5043 in Whakatāne, 4329 in Tauranga, 2472 in Taupō, 2157 in the Western Bay of Plenty, 1752 in Ōpōtiki and 1110 in Kawerau.
In Rotorua, 67.5 per cent of residents, based on the 2013 census, are European, compared with 74 per cent nationally, while Māori make up 37.5 per cent of the city's population, compared with 14.9 per cent nationally.
Despite the data being collected six years ago, Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White believes it is unlikely to have changed much, if at all.
"I think we have seen more of a stabilisation of the language, rather than growth. We are seeing young people coming through kura kaupapa who speak te reo Māori and English beautifully but many of the generation before never learnt the language so there's gaps."
White said tangata whenua in Rotorua were strong in their culture and with that culture came the language.
"Many of our streets, our lakes have Māori names and have magnificent stories attached to them. There is a lot to be learnt about where those names come from and who they honour as it speaks to who we are.
"Each generation has a responsibility to keep the language alive as there are some who claim te reo Māori is still on the inevitable extinction list.
"That said, each generation is more attuned to diversity and has more of a desire to understand one another so in time I think we will see the language grow, rather than just stabilise."
White said while there was a way to go in encouraging people to learn and speak te reo Māori, many were genuine in their desire to learn.
"People always appreciate when their language is pronounced correctly. With Māori, if you keep it simple and say it beautifully, people will respect you for that."
But White said encouraging correct pronunciation was not about chastising those who got the language wrong.
"We don't want people to not attempt the language at all because they are afraid of saying the wrong pronunciation and coming across disrespectful. We want to reward the good pronunciation and offer helpful guidance when the pronunciation isn't quite right."
White said it was vital to keep te reo Māori alive.
"It's more than an obligation, we don't want to lose the jewel in the crown of our culture and that is what our reo is."
Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey said his personal view was that not enough was being done to revitalise te reo Māori.
"To reduce the revitalisation of the language to one week a year, particularly for an official language of New Zealand, is a disservice.
"For the reo to become more widely used we need not only Māori to be immersed in it but our non-Māori counterparts to pick it up and do it too."
Coffey said it was cool to see schools were doing their part to encourage Māori language use but there were still significant disparities between schools.
"What a lot of people don't know is many street names have a historical background. If our local children have the opportunity to learn about the figures behind street names like Pukaki and Tutanekai, they will form a richer connection to the land."
He said if a te reo policy was created by the government, the process of revitalising te reo Māori would move more quickly.
"Make it a core subject in all schools. Embrace it as something all Kiwi children should learn.
"But in order for that to work, the workforce needs to be there. We need to ensure before any policy is created that we are setting it up for success and there is a desire among the community to teach our tamariki."
Adopting a language, a culture, a way of life
Cinzia Jonathan sits in her living room playing peek-a-boo with her 11-month-old daughter Hinekura.
As her daughter's head ducks undercover, Jonathan asks in te reo Māori where she went and pretends to be looking for her. Up pops the little head in a fit of giggles, to which Jonathan exclaims.
The game goes on while Jonathan, speaking in English, explains why she has made the decision to raise her daughter in primarily te reo Māori.
"We want her to have a better connection to her language and culture. The reo was taken away from many in the older generations so I believe we have a responsibility to give it back to the next generation."
Jonathan's pronunciation and use of te reo Māori comes seemingly naturally but it is not her native tongue. It is not even the second or third language she learned.
Hailing from Java in Indonesia, Jonathan started learning te reo Māori after a request from her ailing mother-in-law two days before she died.
"I had been saying for a long time that I wanted to learn but I didn't have that drive. Her request gave me that drive and by her unveiling I was speaking te reo Māori.
"My daughter is my new driver. I want to continue learning with her. I get out te reo children's books to read to her but I am learning from them myself.
"What I've noticed most since having Hinekura is while I've learnt how to converse in the workplace and socially, there are many words for household items I am now having to learn which helps broaden my use of te reo."
Jonathan said the plan was to send Hinekura to a kohanga reo and kura kaupapa to support what she was learning at home.
"We are lucky to be living in Rotorua because there is so many resources and options if you want to raise your child in te reo Māori. It's amazing how many children here weave between te reo Māori and English, it's so doable at that age, I'd encourage more families to consider learning and teaching their children te reo."
Jonathan wants to see more New Zealanders speaking te reo Māori and says anyone who is thinking about learning should jump in and not be afraid of making mistakes.
"Use it, make mistakes - lots of mistakes - and you will get better and you will pick it up. Rock your reo and hope it makes others want to learn too."