While there was a drop in the number of preventable drownings last year, there have also been a record number of rescue callouts.
Water Safety New Zealand says there were 68 drownings in 2018, compared with the 92 the year before. There were 98 in 2012.
Chief executive Jonty Mills says while this is good news, there's no room for complacency.
"There have been record callouts and rescues from the frontline rescue services of Surf Life Saving and Coastguard this summer."
The majority of the drownings were at beaches across the country. Mr Mills says people continue to take needless risks.
"We have higher participation rates out there, a whole lot more people doing a whole lot more things across a whole lot more environments. It's certainly an ongoing challenge for us."
He credited the drop in drownings, despite an increase in callouts, to rescuers' skills.
"I think we're getting better at rescuing people."
Fifty-three of the 68 drownings were men.