The Motueka River is located in the north of the South Island of New Zealand and is a popular tourist destination for watersports and fishing. The Motueka flows 116 kilometres (72 mi) from the mountains 40 km west of the city of Nelson in the southeast of the catchment and flows north to the Tasman Bay.
The Motueka is a large river with average annual flow of 59 cubic meters per second and a flow range from 6 to more than 2,100 cubic meters per second. The average monthly flow has seasonal variation and it at its highest in winter and spring. The mountain catchment areas to the west and southeast have the highest rainfall and provide most of the mean annual flow for the Motueka River. Significant flooding was a serious problem for the local population and a major flood in 1877 led to widespread erosion and changed the course of the river in several areas. There have since been serious flooding in January 1895, July 1929, June 1954 and April 1957 but this was thought to have been addressed when the Motueka Catchment Control Scheme was completed in 1982. In May 2010, however, twenty homes were flooded by the Motueka River in the Wangapeka area near Tapawera and residents had to be evacuated.