A gay teenager was called "disgusting" before he was beaten unconscious in central Auckland.
The attack on Saturday night at Westhaven Marina has shocked gay rights workers.
It came a week after the start of a campaign against such discrimination.
Zakk d'Larte, 18, was dropped off by friends at a boat party about 7pm and was walking back to his apartment in the city centre when three men started to approach him wolf-whistling.
"I think they thought I was a girl because they were calling me 'sweetie' and all that sort of stuff."
As they drew closer, the three men realised Mr d'Larte was male and he said there was a rapid change in their behaviour and attitude.
"It went straight to aggression. They were calling me disgusting - just really homophobic kind of comments."
Mr d'Larte was pushed around and when he fell to the ground, the men started kicking him and he lost consciousness.
He woke up three and a half hours later in a gutter at the marina.
"I just consider myself lucky that they didn't rob me or I wasn't thrown into the harbour."
Mr d'Larte had cuts to his face and a bruised nose, ribs and spine after the attack, which he called disappointing.
He filed a report with the police yesterday.
"I had no idea this sort of thing would still be happening in a modern New Zealand," he told the Herald.
A week ago, the WTF campaign was launched - backed by 30 local celebrities - to raise awareness of homophobia, discrimination and to stand up for gay rights.
Co-ordinator and Rainbow Youth campaigner Sam Shore was appalled by what happened to Mr d'Larte, and said attacks such as that were one of the reasons for the creation of the WTF campaign.
"In New Zealand there's a bubble of people that think that because we've got the civil union 'we're really great people' but because we have such a strong notion of that, there's all this stuff that's happening under the surface that people don't realise or see," he said.
"These happen all the time. All the time. We've got this young boy being attacked, people getting kicked out of home after coming out to their parents and we've still got people being sent to 'corrective places'."
As Mr Shore was preparing the campaign, he was told by a veteran gay rights campaigner that the more noise they made, the more likely it was that a a spike in homophobic violence would follow.
"This seems to be that sort of backlash, people fighting against it."
A health worker at Auckland Sexual Health, Richard Hills, said education and awareness was the key to ending homophobic behaviour.
Through his work, Mr Hills found that isolation and verbal abuse were still common bullying tactics used towards gay students.
"Thankfully physical abuse isn't quite as common as it once was but it still does happen more than most people realise."
The service works in 25 high schools in Auckland, educating students about sexuality and answering their questions.