What is now the Marlborough District, has been exploited economically since the first humans arrived here. Māori harvested flax and eels, and sealers and whalers set were some of the first Europeans to settle in NZ. Pastoral farming and timber milling later become the major industries of the region, along with short lived gold mining. In the late Twentieth Century, a move from pastoral farming to viticulture gradually gained momentum, and now viticulture is a major activity with dozens of wineries, and thousands of hectares planted in vines. Aquaculture has also grown steadily in production, with both salmon and mussels being produced in the region to help give Marlborough a reputation as a region of fine cuisine. Forestry is also a major industry in the region with extensive areas of exotic plantings, mainly radiata pine.
While Marlborough is most notable for primary production, the presence of a Royal New Zealand Air Force base, and aircraft maintainence company Safe Air, at Woodbourne has raised the profile of the region as a centre of aviation activity.
The spectactular scenery of the Marlborough Sounds and other parts of the region helps support a thriving tourism industry.