In the 1860 electoral redistribution, the House of Representatives increased the number of representatives by 12, reflecting the immense population growth since the original electorates were established in 1853. The redistribution created 15 additional electorates with between one and three members, and Motueka was one of the single-member electorates. The electorates were distributed to provinces so that every province had at least two members. Within each province, the number of registered electors by electorate varied greatly. The Motueka electorate had 311 registered electors for the 1861 election.
The Motueka electorate was held for 14 years by Richard Hudson of the Reform Party from the 1914 election. In 1928, Hudson was unexpectedly beaten by 24-year-old George Black of the United Party. The Reform Party looked for potential candidates to win back the electorate, and a young farmer who was not even a member, Keith Holyoake, was suggested. Holyoake, who had been saving money to go overseas, was chosen in June 1931 from five candidates to contest Motueka, and his savings went into the election campaign instead. Meanwhile, there was a desire by parts of the United Party to enter into a coalition with the Reform Party to avoid vote splitting on the centre-right, but it was not until September that the United/Reform Coalition was announced.