In Māori society before contact with Europeans, freight was transported by waka (canoes) or on foot. Māori used waka tete for coastal travel, and waka tīwai for river and lake travel. Travel by water was so much preferred that, where it was possible, waka were hauled overland between waterways.
Narrow tracks linked settlements to each other and to food supply areas. Kawe (flax backpacks) were used for heavy loads, and kete (baskets) for lighter goods. Very large objects – logs and waka – were transported over skids made slippery with seaweed or water. The most difficult overland journey was that between the east and west coasts of the South Island to obtain greenstone. Basic working of the stone was done before it was brought back, to avoid carrying a piece that could then shatter.
Māori also carried foodstuffs such as dried seaweed and fish, preserved birds, fermented crayfish, fresh fish, and moa.
Pātaka – small, raised buildings, some elaborately carved – were used to store food for ceremonial events and winter use. Storage pits, sterilised by fire and sealed against vermin, were also used to hold some foods, such as kūmara.