Marine radio communications were started in Whakatane in 1950 by a private family, Herb and Joyce Brabant. They started the service from their residence at Hillcrest using an ex-Army ZC1 set operating on frequencies of around 2Mhz as ZLRE. They operated their station for 21 years, running four skeds a day for 365 day a year. Their advancing years forced them to relinquish this role in 1972.
The Whakatane Small Craft Marine Radio Association was then operated from a small shed on the end of the Wharf. A Sea Rescue Association was also established in Whakatane about this time. In 1975 the two amalgamated to become the Whakatane Coastguard Association. They operated out of their 10' x 8' building for a time until 1976 when they moved to the site of the present headquarters overlooking the Whakatane River entrance and bar.
The change to SSB and VHF for marine communications also came into force around this time. In 1978 aerials were erected on Kohi Point, some 100 metres above the Headquarters site giving excellent coverage to the Eastern Bay of Plenty. In 1979, Coastguard Whakatane was the first Unit in New Zealand to run Safe Boating courses. It was also instrumental in setting up the national structure of Coastguard the Royal Coastguard Federation Inc. now known as Royal New Zealand Coastguard Incorporated.
The Headquarters building was erected in 1981 and the IRB shed was built alongside in 1985, to house the first Inflatable Rescue Boat. Coastguard raised the funds and presented it to the Surf Life Saving Club for use in rescues at the Heads. When Whakatane purchased their own dedicated Coastguard Rescue Vessel, the IRB was given to the Ohope Surf Life Saving Club. The Coastguard and Surf Life Saving Club maintain a close relationship to this day for any close to shore incidents affecting craft at sea.
The Communications and Control Centre was built in 1991, with voluntary labour and financial assistance from the Federation. The Headquarters building has evolved and developed over the years and is used as a lecture / training room and Administration office also.