Integrated Catchment Management

Catchments, rivers and streams

Catchment and sub-catchments

The Motueka Catchment is situated at the western margin of the Moutere Depression and drains an area of 2180 km2 - the largest catchment in the Nelson region. 

It flows into Tasman Bay, a shallow but productive coastal water body of high economic, ecological and cultural significance. 

The Riwaka River drains a 105 km2 catchment that flows into Tasman Bay 3 km north of the Motueka River. 

The Sub-catchment Map (4128 KB) shows the main sub-catchments of the Motueka River catchment.

Elevation ranges from sea level up to 1600-1850 metres on the catchment divide in the upper reaches of the Motueka. Most of the catchment lies at relatively low elevation, with more than 50% being between sea level and 500 m.


Click here for Sub-Catchments

Rivers and streams

The Rivers and Streams Map (1623 KB) illustrates the major tributaries:

  • Motupiko
  • Tadmoor
  • Sherry
  • Wangapeka
  • Baton
  • Graham
  • Stanley Brook
  • Dove
  • Orinocco

The main stem of the Motueka River rises in the Red Hills and flows north for about 110 km to the sea. 

The river is joined from the east by a series of small and medium-sized tributaries draining dry hilly terrain, and from the west by a series of generally much larger tributaries, which drain both hilly and mountainous terrain. 

Click here to view enlarged map as 1623 kb PDF file

Stream order

Stream order is a measure of the relative size of streams. Stream sizes range from the smallest, first-order, to the largest, the twelfth-order (the Amazon River). 

Over 80% of the total length of Earth's rivers and streams are headwater streams (first- and second-order). 

You can determine stream order from a map of a stream network. The smallest first-order streams are perennial streams, which carry water all year. When two first-order streams come together, they become a second-order stream. When two second-order streams come together, they form a third-order stream. 

However, if a first-order stream joins a second-order stream, it remains a second-order stream. It is not until a second-order stream combines with another second-order stream that it becomes a third-order stream.

The Motueka River is a 6th order river.

Click here for Stream order
go to top