Located on a commanding hill site south of Taradale, Otatara Pa is among New Zealand's most important archeological sites.
Providing an insight into the area's Maori history, the original Otatara and Hikurangi pa sites are embraced in the 33-hectare historic reserve formed 25 years ago. Kaitiaki (caretakers) of Otatara, Ngati Paarau of Waiohiki have partnered up with the Department of Conservation in developing and managing the reserve.
Maori occupied the knoll as long ago as the late 15th century, and it was here that Ngati Kahungunu gained a foothold in Heretaunga and spread to become the dominant iwi in Hawke's Bay and the Wairarapa.
Following the hilly track, walkers can appreciate the site's natural defensive qualities. Standing sentinel over the Heretaunga Plains to the south, both pa were protected from attack by cliffs, steep spurs and a steep drop to the Tutaekuri River.
Originally Te Whanganui a Orotu - the large tidal lagoon which was reduced by land uplift in the 1931 earthquake - extended as far south as Otatara. Over the centuries, the lagoon silted up at its southern end, but the river provided continued access to the estuary's kaimoana - shellfish, eels and fish.
The remains of house terraces and food pits can still be seen, and restoration work has included tree planting, palisades and pouwhenua, the carved posts symbolising the relationship with Maori iwi and hapu and the land.
A loop track starts from Springfield Road car park, or set off from the end of Churchill Drive for a slightly longer walk. Interpretation panels have been set up at points of interest along the tracks, which offer views over a wide area.
Maori protocol rules out kai at wahi tapu (sacred places) such as this.
Springfield Road, Taradale
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