The original history of freight started with sea transport. Think back for a minute; before cars, trains, or planes. Think back to the days when goods would take months upon months to reach a destination via a seafaring ship. The voyages were incredibly dangerous, with risks of striking unseen reefs or rocks close to shore, or even worse, pirates.

A ship could even be just within a few days reach of their destination, and be sacked by a gang of treasure hungry pirates, or fall victim to a nasty storm that smashed the ship to smithereens. These types of fates were common in the 17 to 19th centuries, before ships started being built with sturdier and more modern materials and safety became a priority for the cargo and crew. Many livelihoods and families were destroyed in the blink of an eye with a ship going down.  

Now, we need freight for a variety of reasons that go beyond transporting goods across the sea. Whether you’re sending a package to a loved one across the country, or just moving house to a new neighborhood, we use freight in amazing and remarkable ways here in New Zealand and across the world.  


New Zealand has an interesting uniqueness to freight, as packages, goods, and belongings have to cross the fairly rough sea to reach the South Island from the North, or vice versa. This means that both sea and air transport is extremely important to the country. By far, however, sea transport is the cheapest way for Kiwis to transport items.

It’s not just New Zealand where sea is the cheapest, it’s the whole world. While often significantly slower than air or even land transport, ocean freight is still quite reliable and more importantly, affordable. Unlike the days of the past, where you never knew if your goods would even arrive, let alone be pirated away en-route, sea freight now comes with things like shipping insurance to protect your shipping investment, and tracking numbers to watch the progress. It’s also significantly less expensive because of the longer time it takes to reach its destination.   

Because of the smaller shape of New Zealand, ocean freight is actually quite common, especially between the two islands. However, the unique thing about New Zealand is that the distance between the two islands is short enough where most freight services will actually just use a vehicle to move cargo from one to the other, via a ferry. Ferries can manage quite a bit of weight, including large semi trucks hauling tons of cargo. This brings us to the next mode of freight transportation: land freight.


Land freight in NZ is just as popular as it is across the world. But, it had to go through quite a lot to become a staple in NZ freight. The reason for this is the mountainous topography of the country. Many early towns were coastal towns on the north and south island, requiring early cargo being shipped all the way around the islands on the main coastal roads. This would obviously take quite a bit of time, as straight shot roads down the middle of the island were nearly impossible before modern equipment and engineering allowed for them.

Before roads, Kiwis relied heavily on the ocean to transport goods up and down the coasts, which resulted in the population growth on the coast that we see today. Many of the biggest cities in NZ like Wellington and Auckland, are situated near the coast. Eventually, roads were carved through the middle of the country, allowing shipping and freight to speedily make their way down the islands. Land freight quickly became a reliable and efficient way to send goods.

Now, land freight still dominates for intracountry freight needs. With so many options to send freight on land, such as trucks or trains, the costs have gone down by quite a bit and popularity has gone up for both businesses and personal use alike. Many companies sending freight through the country simply need to hire a forklift or find a folklift for rent and load up their goods to ship them off around the country.  

Freight is even popular for unconventional needs, like car removal or grain and dairy transport. It is often just as cheap to send grain and dairy across the country than it is to it processed near to where it’s grown, so many farmers are relying heavily on land freight. Land freight is generally just the easiest way for companies to send their goods, and will reach customers or businesses within a reasonable amount of time for a reasonable price.


Air freight in New Zealand started taking off in the early 20th century, but didn’t quite catch on until commercial aviation companies started up. With the rising popularity of air travel, and the need to remain competitive with the rest of the world, air freight increased dramatically in NZ to import and export goods.

Today, air freight continues to be a popular way to ship goods to and from NZ from the rest of the world. With speed and easy tracking being its best qualities, air freight still has a heftier price tag than other forms of transport.

Forming landing strips and airports in NZ was quite the task back in the early 20th century as well, considering again the mountainous terrain of the country. Some airports were constructed in some slightly perilous areas, such as the Wellington Airport. With often incredibly high winds and occasionally difficult landing strip conditions, building an airport was quite the task.

Now that you know the history of freight in New Zealand, you might be less inclined to take it for granted so easily in the future. It’s easy to send a package and not really think about what all goes into the process of it getting to its destination, but the truth is, it’s a complicated and incredible process. So, the next time you see that something was delivered properly, remember what it had to go through to make its way to you!

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *