Rotorua's tourism agency has unveiled a new destination brand for the city, and while its chief says it reflects the city's identity, some locals are not sure visitors will get it.
The tohu, inspired by the world-famous Pohutu geyser, was made public yesterday.
Designing and developing it cost $55,000 and was funded by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment through the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme fund.
When shown the new symbol, Koutu resident Judy Kautai said she understood it as a local, but she was not sure outsiders would get it.
"It doesn't jump out at me or make me say 'wow'."
Ōwhata resident Stephanie Wiseman, 53, said she liked the design, and thought it looked like a fingerprint.
"It would look really nice on a sign."
Gayle Thomas, 80, from Fenton Park said she also liked the design but was also unsure if international visitors would understand it.
Rotorua Lakes councillors were the first to see the destination brand when Rotorua Economic Development chief executive Andrew Wilson presented at a meeting yesterday.
"It's been a really challenging past couple of years . . . we must continue to be strategic and ensure we are well placed for the future," he said.
He said feedback from the industry was that its previous campaign activity did not reflect the Rotorua identity.
He explained the symbolism of the new brand and said it had "a real sense of energy and movement, and best of all comes from our own designers."
Mayor Steve Chadwick said she was very excited to see the design and asked if Wilson believed the brand could help rebuild Rotorua's "smashed" reputation.
"We're doing all we can on the emergency housing front. But the brand of Rotorua? I keep seeing it getting knocked," she said.
Wilson said the symbol was about looking to the future and "looking through all the current turmoil".
She asked what he would say to people who questioned whether money should be spent on a brand and he repeated it was about looking to the future.
"These are not things you go back and replace very often."
Councillor Raj Kumar said people came to Rotorua to see geysers and Māori culture: "Will this brand speak volumes in the future to come?"
Wilson explained the design was inspired by the Pōhutu geyser.
Councillor Mercia Yates said she liked the symbol but said it looked like national museum Te Papa's fingerprint icon.
Wilson said others had commented the same, but said it was good people were seeing things in the symbol.
New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute's lead designer Stacy Gordine and General Manager Eraia Kiel worked with design agency DesignWorks to develop the symbol.
Destination Rotorua's head of marketing and insights Jo Holmes said the new tohu would provide a strong visual cue to bring the destination's brand identity to life.
She said it was inspired by the Pōhutu geyser located in the Whakarewarewa thermal valley and the designers gifted the cultural narrative behind the tohu, which acknowledged the eight beating hearts of Te Arawa and the 18 lakes found within the iwi rohe.
"The tohu symbolises the connection between earth and sky, past to the present, physical to spiritual. And best of all, it comes from within this place, from Rotorua designers."
The two-year process involved consultation with stakeholders, including Te Arawa, to define what made Rotorua a special place to live, work and visit.
The symbol will first be used in a marketing campaign to New Zealanders in April.