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
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