Te Mata Peak in Hawke's Bay is one of the region's most popular tourist attractions but is embroiled in controversy after a track was cut into its eastern face.

Craggy Range Winery purchased land opposite its vineyards for the track, intending to gift it to the community, but local iwi were horrified at the jagged lines cut into the mountain.

The winery subsequently said the track would be removed but petitions have been circualted, asking for it to be kept.

Waimarama kaumātua Robert MacDonald said Māori were being blamed for the winery's decision to remove the track when it was the threat of High Court action from the Environmental Defence Society which motivated the winery's decision.

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"They had a very good case to take to the High Court and I think that is where they are being a bit economical with the truth," he said.

Māori lore held the land was the final resting place of Rongokako, grandfather of Ngāti Kahungunu's founder.

It was controversially acquired from Māori by the government in the 19th century and some of the western slope donated to the community by the Chambers family in 1927.

MacDonald said the track incident was yet another example of Pakeha asking for forgiveness after the fact instead of engaging in prior conversation.

"I spoke to them at a meeting and said 'you've got a grand opening and you've got all the visitors in the world - then you want all the Māori people to run around and jump up and down - it's easy to find us'. And then to turn around and say, 'Oh, we are so sorry'."

The winery declined to respond to MacDonald's comments, saying no media statements would be made until a report on track mitigation was complete.

The track has been a public relations disaster for the winery and an apparent failure of the Resource Management Act, under which the track was approved.

"It should have been publicly notified," Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said.

"Te Mata Park is an area that is loved by the whole of the region - the whole of the nation - and that was enough to ensure we talked to the community, and that's where we failed."

She said the council planned to hold a staff workshop, including members of its Māori joint committee, to discuss whether it was adequately protecting significant sites such as Te Mata Peak.

This week Tangoio-based Maungaharuru-Tangitū Trust was due to appeal decisions of the Hastings District Council to the Environment Court, in relation to the protection of sites of significance under the District Plan.

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