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It is located 10 kilometers northwest of Rotorua city, and is often regarded as an outer suburb of the larger centre. However, most locals would be adamant that Ngongotaha is an independent village in its own right. Its population is 4000. Its name is derived from a legend of Ihenga, the famous Māori explorer. It is said Ihenga met the Patu-paiarehe on Mount Ngongotaha and was offered a drink from a calabash (ngongo = to drink, tahā = calabash.
Ngongotaha is often referred to by locals as the "Sunny side of the Mountain". The village has strong football (Ngongotaha AFC), rugby league (Ngongotaha Chiefs), rugby union and netball teams. There are several marae within the community.
The township is currently experiencing development and growth, with several new housing developments occurring, as well as the village centre developing a 'cafe' scene. The main road through the village was recently made a state highway, this now being known as SH36, running via Kaharoa and Pyes Pa to Tauranga.
The Rotorua Branch railway runs through Ngongotaha, although this has been unused since the turn of the century. A Railway Park, run by enthusiasts, provides train rides on a scale model steam train and a mini diesel-locomotive on the Western side of Ngongotaha near the former line.
The Ngongotaha Stream, which flows through the village centre and onward into Lake Rotorua is one of the most heavily fished areas in New Zealand. Specimen Rainbow trout and brown trout are regularly taken by fly fishermen. Other nearby streams (Awahou, Waiteti and Hamurana) also offer good fishing.
On the corner of Kokiri Street and Ngongotaha Road is the Ngongotaha Volunteer Fire Brigade, with two fire applicances and a team of approx 20 volunteer firemen.
In 2005 an initiative was commenced in Ngongotaha declaring it a 'smack free town', with the local population striving to banish corporal punishment. Over the last three years the effort has been a success, although about 45% of settlement polled about the progress of the initiative have turned a blind eye.
Despite its small size, Ngongotaha has produced a number of famous New Zealanders, including:
- Hika Reid All Black Rugby Player 1980-1986.
- Jeremy Paul Australian Wallaby Rugby Player, a 1999 World Cup winner.
- Temuera Morrison Actor
- Cowan, James (1925). Fairy Folk Tales of the Maori. New Zealand: Whitcombe and Tombs Limited. p. 37.