Heart-transplant recipient Pauline Murphy is excited by the increase in organ donors, even though the number remains comparatively small.

"It's marvellous", the 62-year-old, from Pt Chevalier in Auckland, said of the increase to 53 deceased donors last year, from 46 in 2014.

"It can go up a lot more than that though can't it. Any increase is good. It means that the word is getting out there, slowly registering with people that they can donate their organs."

But Ms Murphy said more could be done to encourage people to think about becoming a donor.


"You don't see a lot of advertising about it. I have a little sticker on the back of my car that they give you. It says 'Don't take your organs to heaven - heaven knows we need them here'."

Ms Murphy, who has had her replacement heart for nearly 13 years, had to wait - after her specialist told her a transplant was her only remaining option - for several months for the operation which changed her life.

She had had cardiomyopathy, a disease that weakens the heart's ability to pump blood. For a decade, her heart had got progressively worse and she took a variety of drugs, had surgery to replace a heart valve, and went through two pacemakers.

But now she is in good health.

There are never enough donors and some patients needing an organ die waiting. The number of deceased donors varies significantly from year to year and dipped down to 25 in 2006, from 40 in 2004.

New Zealand's tally 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 which have the highest rates, such as Spain.

Government agency Organ Donation New Zealand (ODNZ) attributes last year's increase to improvements in the quality of 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 yet - from 214 in 2014, an increase of 8 per cent.

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

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

"ODNZ believes that the increase in deceased organ donors has resulted from the quality programme which the additional funding had supported, with the support and commitment of intensive care nurses and doctors throughout the country."