Although the Christchurch Amateur Swimming Club had held a New Zealand championship meeting in 1886, the national swimming titles were instituted officially in 1890. These were the men's 100, 220, and 440 yards free-style events. For some years these were decided at different carnivals, but the arrangement proved unsatisfactory and, since 1905, they have been competed for at a single carnival. From time to time new championship events have been added. These include 220 and 100 yards breast-stroke titles (1906 and 1939); back-stroke (1938); butterfly stroke (1948); medley championships (1947); long-distance championships (1950); and the 1,650 yards free-style championship (1953). The race was previously known as “The Mile”, and had been swum over this distance since 1901. In 1912 women's national titles were instituted, the first event being the 100 yards freestyle championship. Later, women's 440 yards (1921) and 220 yards (1924) free-style events were established, and, since then, breast-stroke (1924), back-stroke (1929), and butterfly-stroke (1948) events have been introduced.
Though the New Zealand Amateur Swimming Association had considered competitive diving as early as 1909, this was not added to the championship programme until 1920 (women, 1924). Tower diving was added in 1952. The principal national swimming trophies are the Yaldhurst Shield (1912) – the senior teams' points trophy-and the Freyberg Shield (1954), for senior and junior teams.
From 1892 until 1951 water polo was controlled by the N.Z.A.S.A., and the national water polo championship was held under the auspices of the association. In 1951 the sport was transferred to the New Zealand Water Polo Board, which administers it under the N.Z.A.S.A. rules.