The first people to roam Queenstown its surrounds were Polynesians who hunted in the area around 1200AD.
Later, Maori people travelled overland to Queenstown in search of food, stone and fibre. Many came from the West Coast and used the area as a resting place. They hunted moa; large, flightless birds. The moa statue in Earnslaw Park is the closest you’ll get to seeing one in Queenstown these days; they were hunted to extinction, possibly as early as 1300AD.
Maoris set up a camp in the area now occupied by the Queenstown Gardens, though this was uninhabited by the time the first Europeans arrived.
At the head of the lake, near modern day Glenorchy, Maori travellers found pounamu (greenstone). Pounamu was important to the early Maori people, who used it to create tools, weapons and ornaments. Carved pounamu pendants are still popular today; it’s often presented as a gift on a special occasion, or as a symbolic keepsake for a traveller.
The Maori name for Queenstown is Tāhuna, meaning shallow bay.