Te Mata Park is part of the land associated with the ancestor Te Rehunga of Ngāti Ngarengare, a sub-tribe of Ngāti Kahungunu. The Park has a rich human history spanning several centuries. The upper parts of the Park in particular have a strong cultural importance to Maori. There is evidence of past settlement including pa sites and other earthworks. The Karaka groves in the upper Te Hau Valley area and Moa bones found on the slopes suggest intensive Maori settlement.
The land that makes up Te Mata Park was included in a block purchased in 1862 by early settler, John Chambers. Chambers farmed in the area, including what now encompasses the Te Mata Estate Winery and land along the Waimarama Road and Tuki Tuki River. In 1927, as a memorial to their father, his sons Bernard, John and Mason gifted a 242 acre (99 hectare) reserve on the upper Havelock North hills, including Te Mata Peak, to the people of Hawke’s Bay in perpetuity.
A charitable trust was set up for the benefit of all citizens of the provincial district of Hawke’s Bay and to be kept as a recreational reserve. Protected by an open space covenant under the QEII National Trust, this generous and forward thinking gift has benefited not only the people of Hawke’s Bay but the New Zealand public in general.
Te Mata Peak is designated an “Outstanding Natural Landscape” in the Hastings District Council District Plan 6. Protection of the present landscape is given the highest priority in the Plan, which defines it as:
“the single most significant landscape icon in Hawke’s Bay, having District, Regional and National significance. It is the most prominent landmark in the eastern Heretaunga Plains with a distinctive silhouette skyline. It is a source of identity for both Hastings and Havelock North residents and Ngāti Kahungunu.”