Calving speeds and calving mechanisms in fresh water contrast with those in tidewater. We obtained calving speeds for six lake-calving glaciers in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, and surveyed the depths and temperatures of their ice-contact lakes. The glaciers are temperate, grounded in shallow (≤20 m) water, and exhibit compressive flow at their termini. These data increase the global dataset of fresh-water calving statistics by 40%, bringing the total to 21 glaciers. For this dataset, calving rates (uc) correlate positively with water depths (hw) (r2 = 0.83), the relationship being expressed by: uc = 17.4 + 2.3 hw. This is an order of magnitude lower than values of uc at temperate tidewater glaciers. For a subset of 10 glaciers for which ice-proximal water temperature (tw) data are available, uc also correlates positively with tw, supporting a physical relation between calving and melting at and below the water-line. Fluctuations of New Zealand lake-calving glaciers in the period 1958–97 show that although the transition from non-calving to calving dramatically increases frontal retreat rates, the onset of calving does not isolate terminus change from climatic forcing. In terms of climatic sensitivity, lake-calving glaciers occupy an intermediate position between tidewater glaciers (least sensitive) and non-calving glaciers (most sensitive).