Early Māori freight and storage
Māori travelled by canoe or walking, carrying goods such as greenstone and food. They stored food in pātaka (small raised storehouses) or in sealed storage pits.
When Europeans first settled in New Zealand, the dense bush and rough terrain made land travel difficult. People travelled and transported goods by ship or canoe. Māori carried freight and passengers in boats on the sea, rivers and lakes.
In the late 19th century refrigerated shipping was introduced, steamships became more common and ports improved.
The first international freight was cargoes of whale and seal products, timber and flax, sent by sea to Europe and America. Later, wool was exported. It was carried by bullock or packhorse from inland farms to the coast, then a boat took it out to a sailing ship. Cool stores were built – often close to freezing works – to hold meat and other farm produce for exporting.
Warehouses were also set up to store goods being imported or exported.
Goods taken off ships were carried by horse or bullock, although roads were bad or non-existent in the early days. Many businesses had their own transport. During the First World War petrol-driven trucks were introduced, and quickly became common.
For much of the 20th century, most land freight was moved by rail. The government – which owned the railways – regulated other types of freight. Trucks were only allowed to transport goods short distances.
Air freighting began in the 1930s. Only a small proportion of goods – usually expensive ones – are carried by air.
In the 1980s the government lifted controls on long-distance trucking, and on which goods could be carried and where. Long-distance trucking flourished. Regulations on shipping were also removed, opening New Zealand ships up to competition with international vessels.
In the 2000s most freight in New Zealand was moved by road. International freight was still mostly transported by sea. Tauranga was the main export port, and most freight went from or to the upper North Island.