Located on a commanding hill site south of Taradale, Ōtātara Pā is among New Zealand's most important archaeological sites.
Providing an insight into the area's Māori history, the original Ōtātara and Hikurangi Pā sites are embraced in the 33-hectare historic reserve formed 25 years ago. Kaitiaki (caretakers) of Ōtātara, Ngāti Pārau of Waiohiki have partnered up with the Department of Conservation in developing and managing the reserve.
Māori occupied the knoll as long ago as the late 15th century, and it was here that the first Ngāti Kahungunu descendants gained a foothold in Heretaunga and intermarried 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 pā were protected from attack by cliffs, steep spurs and a steep drop to the Tutaekurī River.
Originally Te Whanganui-a-Orotū - the large tidal lagoon which was reduced by land uplift in the 1931 earthquake - extended as far south as Ōtātara. 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 terrracing and house and food pits can still be seen. Restoration work has included tree planting, palisades and pouwhenua, the carved posts symbolising the connection to ancient ancestors 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.
Māori custom prohibits kai (food) at wahi tapu (sacred places) such as this.
Springfield Road, Taradale
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