From the top of the hill it is easy to understand why this site was chosen for a pa. From the coast to the ranges of the Main Divide, there are unencumbered views in all directions, giving ample warning of approaching enemies.
Otatara Pa is signposted on the right, 100 metres from the junction of Springfield Road and Gloucester Road, 1.5 km north of Taradale. There is a parking area at the start of the track.
There is an alternative entrance at Churchill Road, but there is no benefit in starting your walk here.
The metalled vehicle track starts by climbing to the reconstructed palisade and pouwhenua, then dwindles to a worn grass track marked with low carved poles. It climbs the southern ridge to Hikurangi Pa, just before the crest. The descent follows the northern ridge, passing terraces used for cultivation and evidence of storage pits.
Not only was the site protected by sheer walls, acting like ramparts, but also lay in close proximity to the Tutaekuri River and Te Whanganui a Orotu, the large lagoon that formerly occupied the area before the 1931 earthquake. The pa was the largest and most historically significant of the area.
It is no wonder the archaeological evidence has shown the pa was inhabited since the late 1400s. It was originally occupied by descendents of Toi kairakau, tribes of Mahu, Hatupuna, Hotuwaipare, Ngai Tara and Whatumamoe. Later, descendants of the son of Toi Awanui a rangi arrived and their leader Koaupari fortified the site. Current kaitiaki (guardians) are the Waiohiki Marae, associated with Ngati Kahungunu. This is as a result of the Taraia, a descendant who exerted influence over the area and attacked Hikurangi pa. When quarrying started many bones were unearthed in large ossuaries, evidence that the battles produced many casualties.
Terracing was used for cultivation of kumara and taro, which were stored in pits to preserve them.
North Island ▷ Hawkes Bay ▷ Napier
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Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍