In the 1980s a float plane and fishing and charter boats were often called out to assist in emergencies in the area. As a result the 'Sounds Emergency Services Coordinating Committee' (SES) was set up in 1990 and funds were raised to build a 6.8 metre Naiad for this work. This was deployed regularly but by 1995 it had become difficult to fund the vessel and train the crews. A decision was made to wind up the SES and pass all the assets on to a newly-formed Marlborough Volunteer Coastguard.
In 1995 the unit took delivery of a 12.6 metre Naiad donated by New Zealand Rail. Over the years, with many callouts involving medical evacuations, a close link was forged with Wairau Hospital Ambulance Service and later St John Ambulance, resulting in the unit's original vessel Interisland Rescue being designated the only marine ambulance in New Zealand. A qualified St John medic is carried on many of the missions.
In 2005 a Trust was formed by St John and Coastguard Marlborough and $1.3 million was raised to design and build a new centre, which was opened in December 2010 and named the 'Ogilvie-Lee Emergency Operations Centre.' In late April 2016, Coastguard Marlborough launched its brand new 14 metre Naiad rescue vessel, Bluebridge Rescue. The custom built rescue vessel is fitted with a fully equipped ambulance bay designed to replicate the exact configuration of a St John’s ambulance, and is the only one of its kind in existence.
The vessel is crewed by both Coastguard and St John’s personnel from Picton and Marlborough units and covers the challenging 1,600km of coastline along the Marlborough Sounds, catering not only to locals, but also to the 1.5 million people who visit the region each year.