The town of Motueka in the South Island of New Zealand lies close to the mouth of the Motueka River, on the western shore of Tasman Bay / Te Tai-o-Aorere. It is, after Richmond, the second largest centre in the Tasman Region, with a population of 7125 (2006 census).[2] The Motueka Ward had an estimated population of 10,900 at 30 June 2009.[3]

An aerial view of Motueka looking east
Motueka's location within New Zealand
Coordinates: 41°07′24″S 173°00′53″E
Country New Zealand
RegionTasman District
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
  Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
Postal codes
7120, 7196, 7197, 7198
Area code03

The surrounding district has a number of apple, pear and kiwifruit orchards, as well as growing a variety of specialised crops such as hops. The area formerly served as the main centre of tobacco growing in New Zealand. A number of small vineyards have developed in recent years, one (Neudorf) gaining an international reputation.

Nearby beaches (such as Kaiteriteri and Marahau) are very popular with holidaymakers, and the area around Motueka has one of the country's highest annual sunshine-hour indices.[4]

Motueka, as one of the nearest towns to the Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Parks, has become the base of many tourism ventures in those parks, as well as in Nelson Lakes National Park, and in other recreational areas. Extensive limestone cave systems (including Harwoods Hole in the Takaka Hill area north of Motueka) attract cavers and rock climbers. Sea kayaking, tramping and canyoning now attract many thousands of visitors each year.

Many artists live in the area around Motueka, especially potters and reggae musicians. The Riverside Community, in nearby Lower Moutere is a pacifist intentional community. Founded in the 1940s, it is New Zealand's oldest cooperative living community.[5]


Motueka looking toward the south-west and the airport

The name Motueka, or more correctly Motuweka, comes from the Māori language, and means weka island, the weka being a bird of the rail family. The town is colloquially called "Mot" by some residents.


The Motueka District Museum

The first known European visitor to the coast near Motueka in 1827 was French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville, of the French corvette Astrolabe. He explored and described much of the Tasman Bay / Te Tai-o-Aorere shore line. Three ships carrying the New Zealand Company's Nelson expedition, led by Captain Arthur Wakefield, anchored at Astrolabe Roads, north of Kaiteriteri Beach—about 16 kilometres (10 mi) due north of Motueka—in October 1841. Kaiteriteri was selected as a site for the first settlement but was later abandoned in favour of Nelson Haven. The exceptional fertility of the soil and the suitability of the surrounding land for small farm settlement were the main reasons for the establishment of the second town of the Nelson settlement at Motueka in 1842. Motueka was created as a borough in 1900. During the period, 1853 to 1876, Motueka was administrated as part of the Nelson Province.

Geography and climate

Motueka is situated on the small Motueka Plain near the Motueka River which enters Tasman Bay about 4 km north of the town. To the west of the valley the land rises steeply to the Arthur and Pikiruna Ranges, and to the south the flat is broken by the gently rolling Moutere Hills.

The source of the Pearse River near Motueka is the deepest known cold-water cave in the world.[6]

Climate data for Riwaka EWS (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 23.3
Average low °C (°F) 12.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 82.2
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 6 5 7 8 9 9 10 10 11 10 8 8 101
Mean monthly sunshine hours 234 242 196 189 156 150 155 166 188 223 236 250 2,385


The Motueka Ward of the Tasman District Council had an estimated population of 10,900 at 30 June 2009.


Motueka once served as a centre for the Plymouth Brethren:[7] their New Zealand patriarch James George Deck (1807–1884) lies buried in Motueka cemetery.


Talley's Seafood Division at Port Motueka

Horticulture is the main industry in the area surrounding Motueka, and the town benefits directly from this. Some of the main crops are apples, beer hops and kiwifruit. Due to the seasonal growth of many crops, the town's population increases greatly with seasonal workers, especially during late summer and early autumn for the apple 'pick'.

At the height of tobacco production, Motueka was home to two tobacco factories. One owned by Australian company WD & HO Wills Holdings and the other by Rothmans International. The tobacco industry has ceased to exist in the area.

Major employers in Motueka include:

  • Motueka Lumber Company now known and recognised globally as the MLC Group. Operates a timber processing facility that specialises in cut-to-length componentry, small end section and specialised timber mouldings.
  • Nelson Aviation College trains pilots for the aviation industry.
  • Prolam has manufacturing facilities in Lower Moutere and Riwaka (previously Prime Pine) that produce glulam beams, i beams, LVL timber, posts, wood flooring, timber retaining walls and mid floors.
  • Talley's Group was established in 1936 by Ivan Peter Talijancich. One of the town's largest employers, the company's Port Motueka site incorporates the Group Head Office, the Seafood Division and the Dairy Division. The Vegetable Division began operations in 1978 at Motueka, but has since been relocated to Blenheim and Ashburton.[8]
  • CJ Industries is a construction and landscaping company.

New Zealand Energy Limited is a Motueka-based company that operates small hydroelectric power stations in Haast, Fox, Opunake and Raetihi.

Motueka Fire Station



From 1853 to 1876, Motueka was administered as part of the Nelson Province.

The Motueka Borough Council was formed in 1900 and existed until 1989, when local government reforms saw it merged into the Tasman District Council. Today the Motueka Ward is represented by three councillors and includes the nearby settlements of Kaiteriteri, Marahau, Ngātīmoti and Riwaka.[3]


The electorate of Motueka and Massacre Bay was created for the 1853 New Zealand general election and was succeeded by the electorate of Motueka in the 1860–1861 general election which lasted until 1890. In 1896 the Motueka electorate was recreated, and lasted until 1946. Today Motueka is part of the West Coast-Tasman electorate.


Motueka High School is a co-educational state secondary school for Year 9 to 13 students,[9][10] with a roll of 743 as of March 2021.[11]

There are two co-educational state primary schools in the township for Year 1 to 8 students: Parklands School,[12][13] with a roll of 181,[14] and Motueka South School,[15][16] with a roll of 230.[17]

There are two private primary schools in the township for Year 1 to 8 students: Motueka Rudolf Steiner School,[18][19] with a roll of ,[20] and St Peter Chanel School,[21][22] with a roll of 56.[23]

There are also five other primary schools in the area surrounding Motueka.[24]


There are two local newspapers in Motueka: The Guardian Motueka, out every Wednesday and The Motueka Golden Bay News, out every Thursday. The area has a local radio station, Fresh FM, which also broadcasts to Blenheim, Nelson, Takaka and Tasman.


State Highway 60 runs through the centre of Motueka.

Motueka is served by State Highway 60 which runs 114.5 kilometres (71.1 mi) from Collingwood in Golden Bay / Mohua to State Highway 6 near Richmond.

The former State Highway 61, now known as the Motueka Valley Highway connects State Highway 60 at Motueka to State Highway 6 at Kohatu Junction near Tapawera.

Port Motueka, 3 kilometres (2 mi) south-east of Motueka, on a tidal lagoon of some 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres), provides sheltered berthage for coastal vessels and is the Gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park.[citation needed]

The Motueka Aerodrome is 3 kilometres (2 mi) west of the town centre and serves as a base for the Motueka Aero Club and the Nelson Aviation College. In 1984, Motueka Air started scheduled passenger flights from Motueka to Wellington, New Zealand using a Piper Aztec aircraft. Within a couple of years the Motueka Air network had grown to include Nelson, Wellington and Palmerston North using additional Piper Chieftains. In 1988, Motueka Air was renamed Air Nelson and relocated to Nelson Airport.[25]

Culture and arts


Te Āwhina Marae is located in Motueka. It is a marae (meeting ground) for Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Tama ki Te Tau Ihu and Te Atiawa o Te Waka-a-Māui, and includes the Turangāpeke wharenui (meeting house).[26][27]


Motueka hosts the Kaiteriteri Carnival and Motueka Festival of Lights.



Sister cities

Motueka is twinned with:

Notable people


  1. "About Motueka". Archived from the original on 27 January 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  2. "Motueka » Tasman District Council". 14 April 2015. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  3. "Motueka Ward » Tasman District Council". 1 July 2015. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  4. "Total sunshine hours across selected New Zealand locations". Figure.NZ. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  5. "Riverside Community | Cooperative Living for Peace and Sustainability". Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  6. Steward, Ian (10 May 2011). "Motueka cave 'world's deepest' of its kind". The Nelson Mail. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  7. Lineham, Peter J. "The Significance of J.G. Deck 1807-1884" (PDF). Christian Brethren Research Fellowship Journal 107 (1986). p. 13. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  8. "Our Heritage". Talleys. Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  9. "Motueka High School Official School Website".
  10. "Motueka High School Ministry of Education School Profile". Ministry of Education.
  11. "Motueka High School Education Review Office Report". Education Review Office.
  12. "Parklands School Official School Website".
  13. "Parklands School Ministry of Education School Profile". Ministry of Education.
  14. "Parklands School Education Review Office Report". Education Review Office.
  15. "Motueka South School Official School Website".
  16. "Motueka South School Ministry of Education School Profile". Ministry of Education.
  17. "Motueka South School Education Review Office Report". Education Review Office.
  18. "Motueka Rudolf Steiner School Official School Website".
  19. "Motueka Rudolf Steiner School Ministry of Education School Profile". Ministry of Education.
  20. "Motueka Rudolf Steiner School Education Review Office Report". Education Review Office.
  21. "St Peter Chanel School Official School Website".
  22. "St Peter Chanel School Ministry of Education School Profile". Ministry of Education.
  23. "St Peter Chanel School Education Review Office Report". Education Review Office.
  24. David Armstrong. "Schools in and around Motueka, New Zealand". Archived from the original on 18 April 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  25. "Company Facts - About Us - Air Nelson - Air Nelson Site". Air Nelson. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  26. "Te Kāhui Māngai directory". Te Puni Kōkiri.
  27. "Māori Maps". Te Potiki National Trust.
  28. "Friendly Towns » Tasman District Council". Archived from the original on 14 July 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  29. Orr, Katherine W. "Ann Boyce". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 1 March 2012.