Last year's drowning toll was New Zealand's worst for eight years and was more than 40% higher than the previous year.
Water Safety New Zealand says 123 people drowned in 2011, the worst toll since 2003.
Chief executive Matt Claridge says it is extremely disappointing after a record low of 86 drownings in 2010.
Mr Claridge says 80% of those who died were males and he puts this down to the fact that many aquatic activities such as boating, fishing and diving, are male-dominated activities.
He says it's a simple case of over-enthusiasm, lack of adherence to basic water safety principles and a lack of consideration for the care and wellbeing of others.
Mr Claridge says many of the deaths could have been prevented if people had remembered the basics of water safety.