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Kehu’s Track (Heaphy Track) (northern portion)

Ngāti Apa have an unbroken historical, traditional and spiritual association with Kehu’s Track stretching back several hundred years to the time of their Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri tīpuna who first discovered and utilised this route.

Our links with what is now known as the Heaphy Track are particularly strong and are associated with tipuna Kehu.

Occupation areas were set up and maintained by Ngāti Apa around important mahinga kai areas in the region of Kehu’s Track, including estuaries and the coastline. Pahi (seasonal and temporary huts) were also set up in inland areas for hunting, gardening and food gathering.

Ngāti Apa’s knowledge and use of the track was exemplified by Kehu (also known as Hone Mokehakeha, or Mokekehu). Kehu was a Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri/Ngāti Apa tohunga and kaitiaki of the inland trails and the natural resources of the region. Kehu’s Track formed an extremely important and well-used highway that connected far-flung Ngāti Apa settlements in Te Tai Aorere, Mohua, Te Taitapu and Kawatiri. The manner in which the track connected settlements across their vast rohe made it the “backbone” of Ngāti Apa, and was central to maintaining the unity, mauri and integrity of the tribe. Ngāti Apa tīpuna also used the track to gain access to limestone caves used as urupā, which remain tapu today.

Land and waterways along the trail were a rich mahinga kai such as upokorokoro (grayling or native trout), as well as inanga, kōkopu and tuna; and birds such as kererū, kiwi, kākāpō, weka, korimako (bellbird) and kōkō (tūī). There were also extensive Ngāti Apa cultivations associated within various micro-climates of the track. These were planted and grown on a seasonal basis and used to sustain travelling parties year-round.

Huts of a type and design specific to Ngāti Apa were strategically placed along the trail for the accommodation of travellers.