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A Ngongotaha community group has big plans for the village on Rotorua's doorstep and wants the rest of the community to get involved.
Senior reporter Matthew Martin finds out what's planned and how local businesses are getting into the community spirit.

Community group Progress Ngongotaha says their village may be small but it has a big heart and they want everyone who lives there to be part of their plans for the future.
The group are to hold a public meeting next week to let people know what they are up to and how they can help.

Chairwoman Lynn Benfell said the open meeting would be held at the Ngongotaha Community Hall on Wednesday from 7pm and everyone was welcome.
Mrs Benfell said seven keen locals made up the committee but there were about 30 others involved in the group.

"We can't do anything without the participation of the whole community and we want to let them know what we have planned.
"It's a community-led organisation and we want it to stay that way," she said.

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Committee members Bob Martin, a former Rotorua District councillor, and Gareth Hall said there was a long and exciting list of plans for the village.
These include the building of a $1 million youth, sport and community centre on land behind the Community Hall for which they have already secured $250,000 worth of funding.

They also want to set up a museum and information centre in the old 1930s powerhouse building on Western Rd, a "walk of fame" for Ngongotaha's sporting heroes and set up new village signage and an arts trail.

The group has been seen to have taken the bull by the horns already with the building of a small recycling centre on land donated by the owners of the Gull Ngongotaha service station on the north side of the village.

Gull co-owner Wayne Parry said he and his business partner Alan Newby were more than happy to provide the land after the district council dropped plans to build its own recycling centre for the community a few years ago.

Gull Ngongotaha's owners Wayne Parry (left) and Alan Newby have donated land for Progress Ngongotaha to set up a small recycling centre. PHOTO/ BEN FRASER
Gull Ngongotaha's owners Wayne Parry (left) and Alan Newby have donated land for Progress Ngongotaha to set up a small recycling centre. PHOTO/ BEN FRASER

Mr Martin said the council's decision was a "bit of a blow" for the community so they went ahead and did something about it themselves.
At the moment the recycling centre is open for two hours on a Sunday afternoon and is set up in an old ship container next to the service station.

"All we are asking for is a gold coin and we are getting about 20 cars a day and it's building so we need some more room," Mr Martin said.

Mr Parry said it was going well.
"We are keen to put more money in and tar seal the yard, put up some more fencing and clean the place up.

"We are very happy to support it. We had some surplus land and knew about the council's decision and thought we could help.

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"The people of Ngongotaha are loyal to our service station so we felt we could give something back."

Mr Martin said that was typical of Ngongotaha people.

"We have a great little community and things are starting to pick up and we want to carry on the momentum. The key is getting the whole community on board."
Ngongotaha PostShop owner Shalendra Singh has been part of the Ngongotaha community for the past 15 years. His is a one-stop shop for locals as he also runs a KiwiBank branch, a Lotto shop and bookstore.

And, after Westpac bank closed, his was the only ATM in town.

Shalendra Singh, Ngongotaha's Post Shop/Kiwibank owner, is right behind Progress Ngongotaha's initiatives. PHOTO/ BEN FRASER
Shalendra Singh, Ngongotaha's Post Shop/Kiwibank owner, is right behind Progress Ngongotaha's initiatives. PHOTO/ BEN FRASER

"I fully support what they are doing for the community. I'll help fund-raise and spread information and with a lot of foot traffic coming into the shop I think I can help.

"I love the friendly village atmosphere, I know most of my customers by name."
Mr Singh said projects aimed at youth should be a priority so they could feel they were part of the community rather than feeling left out with nothing to do after school.

"We have everything in the community people need, but it's important to keep growing and we have to include everyone in this."

Mr Martin said new businesses were also being attracted back to the village after a few shops on the main street and the hardware store closed down during the global recession.

"It's been tough, but they are coming back. The owner of the two-storey building on the state highway, Gary Wood, is committed to refurbishing those shops," he said.

An example of this is the new CrossFit Ruark gym business that set up in the old hardware store on Taui St and already has more than 65 members.
Crossfit Ruark sales and marketing spokeswoman Annette McLeod said they had netballers, rugby players, kapa haka performers and 'Joe Public' using their facility.
She said trainers Josh Gardiner and Tui Meriless-Horne already had a loyal following and the business was keen to lend Progress Ngongotaha a hand.

"They want to be really proactive in the community and want to support initiatives that grow and promote the village.

"It's a great place for a small business to set up. We service Hamurana, Mamaku, Paradise Valley, Kaharoa and even get people from Rotorua coming here," Mrs McLeod said.

"Stage two is working with kids, going to the schools to take them fitness programmes," she said.

Ngongotaha Four Square owner Sailesh Patel loves the "family feel" of Ngongotaha and has been a big supporter of the village since he set up shop more than 10 years ago. "Progress Ngongotaha have the vision, the time and the energy to get things moving so I support them.

"They say something and they do it - it's all volunteer-based and it's a lot of work."
Mr Patel said he wanted Ngongotaha to move with the times but retain its great hospitality and friendly nature.

"What's good for Ngongotaha is good for Rotorua which is good for everyone.
"I think of it like a TV screen with millions of pixels. If one of those pixels goes out it affects the whole screen."

He said everyone in the village should try to play their part and give their ideas.
Mrs Benfell said everyone on the committee was dedicated to improving the place they loved.

"It's all about bringing people together, recognising some of the community are not being catered for as well as they might be, especially our youth and our elderly.
"We love our little village and we'd like to enhance it for everyone. It's a unique place."

Fact File:
Public meeting
¦ Where: Ngongotaha Community Hall, School Rd
¦ When: Wednesday 7pm
¦ Why: To discuss Progress Ngongotaha's Arts, Heritage and Celebratory policy and the future of the village
¦ Contact: Progress Ngongotaha chairwoman Lynn Benfell on (07) 357 4565

Upcoming projects
¦ A $1 million youth, sport and community centre
¦ A larger recycling centre with better facilities
¦ Possible museum and information centre
¦ Main street commercial building upgrades
¦ Whare Aroha retirement village and hospital
¦ Riding for the Disabled's new $1.1 million facility
¦ Two new residential subdivisions planned
¦ Village signage and art trails
¦A "walk of fame" for Ngongotaha's sporting heroes

Progress Ngongotaha Committee
¦ Lynn Benfell, chairwoman
¦ Bob Martin
¦ Gareth Hall
¦ Carol Newcombe
¦ Lee Thompson
¦ Martyn Evans
¦ Heather McKechnie