It was recognised early on by a number of local commercial and recreational boaties that the Marlborough Sounds had some of the most beautiful, but also some of the most dangerous waters in the country, particularly Tory Channel, Cook Strait and French Pass.

These mariners were often engaged in various search and rescue missions. So in the early 1950's, the Picton Small Marine Craft Radio Association was formed to help boaties navigate in this area more safely, and in the same era the Havelock Small Marine Craft Radio Association evolved for similar reasons.

Tony and Betty Baker were instrumental in raising awareness of the service in the Queen Charlotte Sound / Picton side from the late 1960s; similarly the Havelock operation grew as a result of the dedication of Alan and Val Johnson. The Picton and Havelock Associations eventually amalgamated to become the now Marlborough Marine Radio Association Inc.

Coverage in the Sounds was gradually increased by the installation of Channel 63 (at Kahikatea) in 1983, and further in 1989 for the Pelorus Sound area by the introduction of Channel 65 (on Paradise Reserve, above Kaiuma). Later, in 1991, Channels 01 and 66 were installed (on Mt Stokes) giving a wider coverage option. Channel 05 was installed in 2003.

On 31 May 2018 Marlborough Marine Radio Association amalgamated with Nelson Marine Radio Association to become Marlborough-Nelson Marine Radio Association Inc.