A former Hawke's Bay man is defending a raft of charges laid after a mysterious sexual assault case from 17 years ago.

Police say new legislation on DNA evidence led to the arrest of Glenn Junior Te Kahu, 37, who appeared before Judge Geoff Rea in the Napier District Court yesterday.

Via video link from Whanganui, he entered not guilty pleas to all charges, with his case now heading to trial.

Te Kahu was arrested in Whanganui in March, charged with threatening to kill, abduction, assault with intent to commit rape, and sexual violation.

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Detective Sergeant Tim Smith told Hawke's Bay Today police had been in regular contact with the alleged victim throughout the court process.

He said previously, the alleged victim was found in a "distressed state" by a member of the public on Marine Parade in Napier on the morning of February 6, 1998.

Police claim Te Kahu raped the 27-year-old after she left a bar in Napier. He would have been 20 at the time.

Mr Smith could not go into detail about why the arrest came 17 years after the alleged crime was reported, but said it came down to new legislation.

"I can't provide more detail, but obviously with DNA developments and things and new legislation, people are having to provide DNA and don't really get an option any more."

Detectives had travelled to Whanganui earlier this year to make the arrest after liaising with police there. It was relatively uncommon for cases to be resolved after many years, but he knew of the odd one, Mr Smith said.

After yesterday's hearing Te Kahu was remanded in custody. His case would be called again on August 14. Sexual violation carries a maximum 20 year jail term.