Three people drowned in Canterbury last year, the lowest toll since 1998.
Eight-one people drowned across the country in 2013, down from 98 the year before and the lowest number since records began in 1980.
Canterbury's three cases last year involved two adult men and one adult woman.
Specific details were not available, but one drowning happened at a home pool, one involved inland still water and the third was classified "domestic", meaning it happened on a residential property.
It was the lowest number since 1998, when three people also drowned. Seven people drowned in Canterbury in 2012, 13 in 2011 and seven in 2010.
On the West Coast, four people drowned last year, the same as the year before.
Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge said although the total number of drownings was "heading in the right direction", the rate still put the country amongst the worst in the developed world.
He was particularly concerned about the increase in pre-school drownings and the five to 14-year-old toll remaining the same as last year.
"Overall, it's great that the toll is tracking down but 81 deaths is still a huge number ranking us amongst the worst in the developed world. And no pre-schoolers should be drowning in this country," he said.
"Kids under five should be within arms reach of a parent or caregiver at all times in, on and around water."
Five pre-schoolers drowned last year - up 67 per cent on 2012.
Six young people aged 5 to 14 years old drowned, matching the same number as 2012 and doubling the five-year average of three.
Men were also a big contributor to drownings making them a priority area for New Zealand's water safety sector.
Seventy-seven per cent of last year's drownings were men and organisations like Maritime New Zealand, Coastguard and Surf Lifesaving New Zealand were doing a lot of work around changing Kiwi blokes behaviour in the water.
"We need to halve the number of men drowning and reduce the pre-school toll to zero in the short term," Claridge said.
"There's no room for complacency when it comes to water safety."
For every drowning in New Zealand, on average another 1.8 people were hospitalised due to near drownings.
There have been four drownings so far this year.
CANTERBURY'S DROWNING TOLL
- © Fairfax NZ News
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