Brunner, Kehu and Heaphy reach Māwhera pā

19 May 1846

Thomas Brunner, c. 1871 (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-023745-G)

This journey was part of Thomas Brunner’s epic 1846–48 exploration of the South Island. He was accompanied by Kehu of Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri, and Charles Heaphy, a draughtsman and artist with the New Zealand Company who later became Chief Surveyor in Auckland.

Brunner arrived in Nelson in 1841. From August 1843 he explored the hinterland with survey parties, persisting in his efforts despite not finding rumoured ‘great plains’. In February 1846 Brunner and Kehu joined Charles Heaphy and future Premier William Fox in a month-long exploration of the upper Buller River and its tributaries.

On 17 March Brunner, Kehu and Heaphy left Nelson again. They travelled via Golden Bay and then along the West Coast as far as Hokitika. On their five-month return journey Brunner and Heaphy became the first Europeans to visit the Poutini Ngāi Tahu settlements at Māwhera (the future site of Greymouth), Taramakau and Arahura, and were the first to identify Aoraki/Mt Cook as New Zealand’s highest peak.