Keeping Places Beautiful: Motueka

Mot’s a lovely spot … It’s got everything – the climate, the mountains, the rivers and the sea. Bob Cooke.

A great place to live — and home to three former PM’s!

By Roger Childs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe town began back in the early 1840s soon after English settlers arrived in the New Zealand Company’s Nelson settlement.

In 1842 the High St was described as a dust bowl in summer and a muddy morass in winter and there were frequent problems with flooding in the early years.

Today Motueka is a thriving community of nearly 8000 and the long paved main street is the gateway to the popular Abel Tasman National Park and the wonders of Golden Bay.

The prosperous town is now home to former long time Kapiti identities, Helen and Bruce Dryden, who OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmoved south to be closer to their son Greg and his family. From a north facing slope in Kina, Greg runs Fruition Horticulture (SI) Ltd, an agricultural consultancy business, and a winery, His hillside office looks down across their beautiful boutique vineyard which produces quality pinot gris and pinot noir under the Vista label.


Changing with the times

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMotueka is a town that has produced three prime ministers and its survival has centred on a varied and resilient economy which has adapted to changing markets and trends.

~ the first sawmill opened in 1843
~ a port developed near the entrance to the Motueka River
~ boat building was an early industry
~ tobacco was well established as a cash crop by the late 1880’s and lasted until the mid1990s
~ a range of other crops, supplying the Nelson market and beyond, now include: apples, berries, kiwifruit and hops






~ pastoral farming in the hinterland ranges from sheep farming and dairying to deer and beef cattle
~ fishing has been a major industry from earliest times and Motueka is home to Talleys Industries
~ tourism is big business and as well as the Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Parks and popular beaches like Kaiteriteri  close by, there are dozens of cafes, galleries and potteries in the area.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving the sea, the Mt Arthur Ranges and National Parks close by, the Motueka area is also a mecca for a range of outdoor activities such as tramping, kayaking, mountain biking, running, swimming, cycling and fishing. The town also has an excellent links golf course which is well used by the Drydens.

In recent years Motueka has become increasingly popular as a retirement area. Nearby Nelson is regarded as having one of the best climates in New Zealand — however Motueka is a little warmer and more sheltered from the westerly winds.

The attractions of family, climate, proximity to Nelson and a progressive attitude to conservation, brought the Drydens to Motueka. Amongst many other community activities, they’ve become involved in Keeping Motueka Beautiful.

Keeping the town beautiful

The well known Keep New Zealand Beautiful movement is nationwide and is also alive and well in Otaki, Paraparaumu/Raumati and Paekakariki. In Motueka, the community got started on tidying up their town in 1988 and in 2010 they won the Best Town award. There is a wide range of activities going on, as their website indicates

Apart from plantings and other beautification work, constructing walkways to enable the community to have good access to the wonders of the local scenery is ongoing.

Saw milling and conservation  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHowever, one of the big successes for Keep Motueka Beautiful, has been the Adopt-a-Plot scheme. A few years ago one of the old timber mills near the estuary closed down and left an unsightly, derelict area. The sawdust was over a metre thick and according to Bruce, sceptics said nothing will grow in that.

However, led by keen conservationist Bob Cooke, the area was subdivided into over 30 large garden sized plots and local people were invited to take responsibility for an area. The process of turning wasteland into wonderland has involved:

~ periodic detention workers digging hundreds of holes across the plots area and filling them with soil
~ various organisations and businesses donating plants
~ the Tasman District Council making an annual grant
~ plot minders doing the planting and agreeing to weed and maintain their area!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe transformation has been amazing and further enhances the appeal of this wonderful town. The rapidly growing vegetation is now interlaced with trails which are well used by walkers, runners, cyclists, dogs and, unfortunately, some rabbits!

Bruce is proud to have been part of the process as the man with Plot 30. He observes that many find the motivation of work on their own plot is greater than if they were in a group looking after the whole.


My thanks to Bruce Dryden for additional detail.


 (Click on the photos to  enlarge. You’ll see the head of the cattle beast!)