A local conservation board is impressed with progress being made on a draft conservation management strategy for one of the largest and most significant pā sites in Hawke's Bay.

The East Coast Hawke's Bay Te Tairāwhiti Ki Te Matau-A-Māui Conservation Board meets every two to three months and at its most recent meeting members took an excursion to the Otatara Pā Historic Reserve to learn more about it and its significance to the region.

Board member Te Kaha Hawaikirangi said along with local Department of Conservation (DOC) staff, they were guided to the site by kaitiaki hapū member Chad Tareha of Ngāti Pārau.

"The board soaked up stories of the pā site and the surrounding area, including the history behind the naming of the Tūtaekuri River," he said.

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The Tūtaekuri was named for the generosity of a chief called Hikawera II.

The board heard how Hikawera II fed a malnourished travelling party by putting the hapū's own pet dogs to death.

The dogs were then prepared for cooking through the act of cleaning off the offal in the river's waters.

From that point on the original name of the river, Te Wai ō Mahurangi, was changed to Tūtaekurī, Hawaikirangi said.

"The commanding view from the pā site over the Napier and Hastings area was a fitting environment for the board to discuss the Department of Conservation's draft five-year plan for the historic reserve, which is classed as category one historic place of national significance."

Ōtātara Pā Historic Reserve was established in 1973 at one of the largest and most ancient Māori pā sites in Hawke's Bay, comprising 58 ha, and incorporating two pā sites: Ōtātara Pā (on the lower portion of the hill) and Hikurangi Pā, 500 metres higher up the ridge, he said.

It was administered by DOC in partnership with the local hapū, Ngāti Pārau, one of the hapū within the Ahuriri hapū, as kaitiaki (guardians) of the reserve.

Notable for its natural defensive qualities and the area's resources, its tūāpapa (terraces) were still evident today.

The East Coast Hawke's Bay Te Tairawhiti Ki Te Matau-A-Maui Conservation Board is one of 15 around the country, which were established in the 1980s to give the public and stakeholders input into conservation planning.

The main focus of the seven-member Hawke's Bay board over the last two to three years was drafting the conservation management strategy for the region, said Hawaikirangi.

Work was continuing on a draft five-year plan for the reserve, with a vision to create a 100-year plan.

"The board was impressed with the proposed plan, which includes the likes of native plantings and initiatives to promote tourism and education, and excited for the opportunities that it presented for the local hapū and community in the future."

Situated on the hills at Waiohiki in Taradale, the reserve could be accessed from Churchill or Springfield Roads.