During the nineteenth century, large-scale sheep farming in the region gave Marlborough its unique identity, significantly different from the neighbouring Nelson
province. Since then, farming has been the cornerstone of the regional economy.
Over the past 25-30 years there has been diversification into other industries, most notably, wine production and by 1998, the wine industry had grown to become the
largest viticultural region in New Zealand, in terms of area and quantity of grapes grown. Each year, the industry injects more than $65,000,000 into the regional
economy. Marlborough wines have won numerous international awards and the industry continues to grow apace. There has been a 33% increase in hectares planted in grapes
since 1998, but demand still outstrips supply. Although Marlborough specialises in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay is also a key variety now and Pinot Noir is not far behind.
Forestry is another rapidly expanding industry in Marlborough, a reflection of the area's favourable climatic conditions which produce trees with good form and growth.
The presence of the inter-island ferry terminal at Picton has attracted a number of businesses involved in transport and storage to the port.
Shakespeare Bay deep-water port facility. In 2000, Port Marlborough opened a deep-water port facility at Shakespeare Bay adjacent bay to the company's existing port
facilities at Picton Harbour.
The development of the Shakespeare Bay facility reflects the growth in export bulk cargo coming available within the region and the need for storage and shipping
facilities capable of handling large volumes of timber, logs, and coal. The local forestry resource is rapidly approaching maturity, and the West Coast coal resource will
require access to a deep water export port.
It is anticipated that Marlborough will enjoy continued economic development in wine production, marine farming, forestry, tourism, and defence/aeronautical engineering.
This expansion of the primary resource base in Marlborough presents opportunities for value-added industries to develop and to establish.