Water Safety New Zealand says it's a huge disappointment that such a high number of pre-school children, half of them Maori, drowned last year.
Last year 123 people died in the water, the worst toll since 2003.
Seven of the 14 victims aged under five were Maori.
Water Safety chief executive Matt Claridge says the high proportion of Maori pre-school victims and the number of youths involved in risky behaviour such as jumping off wharves is a real concern.
He says Asian, Maori and Pacific ethnic groups are all disproportionately represented in drownings, with Maori making up 20% of the total number of deaths.
Mr Claridge says for many men, including Maori, there is too much of a carefree attitude when boating, diving or fishing.