Story: Roads

Māori tracks and state highway routes, South Island

Māori groups followed tracks from the South Island’s east coast, or from the North Island, to collect pounamu (greenstone) on the West Coast. They normally climbed along one of the rivers that drained the Southern Alps, and then crossed a pass to another valley. Some routes down the coasts were also used for carrying items for trade, especially foods that were exchanged with other tribes. The main roads that were built from the late 1800s, and which have evolved into the state highway network, closely match some of the greenstone trails – perhaps unsurprisingly, as tracks and roads both follow the obvious and easy routes through the landscape.

Sources: Barry Brailsford, Greenstone trails: the Māori and pounamu. 2nd ed. Hamilton: Stoneprint, 1996; Transit New Zealand

Using this item

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

This item has been provided for private study purposes (such as school projects, family and local history research) and any published reproduction (print or electronic) may infringe copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user of any material to obtain clearance from the copyright holder.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Roads - Early roads', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 7 July 2022)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 11 Mar 2010, updated 1 Mar 2016