Story: Volcanic Plateau places
Page 1 – Ngongotahā and district
Town 8 km north-west of Rotorua city centre, on the shores of Lake Rotorua. Ngongotahā sits at the foot of 757-metre Mt Ngongotahā. Parawai, Waikuta and Waitetī marae are found here. The name refers to the mouth of a gourd, from which the Te Arawa ancestor Īhenga drank after he had climbed the mountain.
In 1939, P. H. Castleton landscaped the springs at the headwaters of the Ngongotahā Stream and opened them to the public as Paradise Valley. Further downstream, near the town, is the Agrodome, opened in 1971 by top shearer Godfrey Bowen and local farmer George Harford. Tourists visit to see displays of farm livestock, especially sheep.
Hamurana and Hamurana Springs
Settlement and freshwater springs on the north side of Lake Rotorua, 14 km from Rotorua city by road. From the town’s early days it was a favoured place for lake excursions. Today it is a scenic reserve.
The tranquil Hamurana Springs, 20 minutes’ walk from the road, produce 4.4 million litres of water per hour. They feed the Hamurana Stream, the bed of which is visible through the crystal-clear water. Groves of poplars and redwoods and a golf course also attract visitors. The name Hamurana is a Māori form of the biblical Smyrna – the stream was originally called Kaikaitāhuna.
Gone to the dogs
Mamaku had no licensed hotel, so sly-grogging thrived. One man’s house and outbuildings were frequently raided but nothing was ever found. After he’d given up trading he revealed that he had kept the liquor under the double roof of his dog kennel.
Township on the Mamaku Plateau, 20 km north-west of Rotorua on the branch railway line. Mamaku had a population of 729 in 2006. It was originally called Kāponga, but the name was changed to avoid confusion with the Taranaki settlement.
Mamaku thrived from the 1880s as a sawmilling centre, mostly processing rimu, with some tōtara and other woods. The railway reached the town in 1893, and much of the timber was taken by rail to build gold batteries for the Waihī goldmines. Many of Rotorua’s early entrepreneurs started in Mamaku, which grew almost as quickly as Rotorua for several decades. In the town’s heyday (the early 20th century), it had seven sawmills, five billiard halls, three dance halls and two cinemas – but no licensed hotel. Sawmilling remains an important activity today.