One year ago Rotorua lakes Council voted unanimously to support a proposal from Te Tatau o Te Arawa to progress Rotorua as a bilingual (reorua) city and district.
The year has gone fast and the desire from many parts of the community to hasten progress has been pleasing.
However, the need to ensure a quality, well-planned approach is fundamental to success and sustainability.
This takes time to achieve and cannot be rushed and yet the expectation is certainly there to turn this around quickly.
The retention of te reo Māori is a Treaty obligation as a constitutionally recognised language of our country.
Secondly, it is a unique identifier of our people, culture and place and like many indigenous languages around the world, is in danger of extinction.
This can happen within a generation if we do not nurture its use and development.
Thirdly Rotorua is the birthplace of tourism in Aotearoa and the use of te reo, the knowledge and stories that it reveals add significant value to the visitor experience.
That said, let's take a look at what we have achieved in our first year and where we are going from here.
We have developed a phased three-year plan whereby the end of 2020 we will be well on the way to normalising the use of te reo and recognition of Rotorua as a reorua destination.
What will normalising look like? Reorua represented in signage, people embracing te reo on the street, at home, in the workplace, schools, playgrounds, anywhere and everywhere.
Already a range of businesses are integrating te reo and negotiations are being concluded with the New Zealand Transport Authority to incorporate bilingual signage into main entry points to Rotorua.
A centralised information hub has been developed for those wishing to be involved and to integrate reorua into their businesses and everyday lives (www.tetatau.nz).
The focus now is to continue to build momentum within the community, to develop an independent structure/organisation to take reorua forward, to ensure policies are in place to maintain quality and consistency, and build a reorua model that adds value to Rotorua, our home, people and place.
With Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori commencing on September 10, we look forward to reo being spoken anywhere and everywhere and the recognition of its uniqueness and value to us all.
Te Taru is from Te Arawa, Tainui and Ngāti Porou descent and is the chairman of Te Tatau o Te Arawa, Rotorua Lakes Council partnership. His website is http://tetaruwhite.com.