Organ donation officials are hailing the increase in deceased donors last year to 53, as the greatest number yet.

"This is a 15 per cent increase from the 46 donors in 2014 and a 47 per cent increase from the 36 donors in 2013," says the agency Organ Donation New Zealand.

The annual tally tends to oscillate significantly from year to year and dipped down to 25 in 2006, from 40 in 2004.

New Zealand's number of organ donors has traditionally been low compared with other developed countries. Even with last year's increase, our rate is only around one-third of the rate in recent years in countries that have the highest rates, such as Spain.

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The organ donation agency attributes last year's increase to improvements in the quality of organ donation services.

It says there were also 78 live donors last year who donated a kidney or part of their liver to 78 recipients.

Overall, the number of organ transplant recipients rose to 232 last year - the greatest number ever - from 214 in 2014, an increase of 8 per cent.

The agency's clinical director, Dr Stephen Streat, says it has been greatly assisted by extra annual funding of $500,000 for four years, from mid-2012.

"ODNZ continues to work with health professionals in hospitals to ensure that every situation where organ donation might be possible is recognised and that donation is compassionately discussed with every such patient's family by a health professional with knowledge and skill.

"The increase in deceased organ donors has resulted from this quality programme."