More New Zealanders paid off their debts on time in the last year but debt levels remained persistently high.
Debt and credit checking agency Dun Bradstreet said the number of referrals to debt collectors fell by a quarter in the year to September while the total value of debts fell 12%.
Dun Bradstreet New Zealand general manager John Scott said despite financial pressures many households have been addressing their debts and taking a more cautious approach to their finances.
Fewer people are failing to meeting their obligations from the credit provider, he said.
Mr Scott said there is still a persistent level of debt and, though lower than 12 months ago, it is still not back to the level it was in 2007.
Christchurch experienced the greatest fall in debt referrals, down 34%, while Wellington fell by 17%.
Auckland's referrals fell by the smallest amount, 14%, and the value climbed.
People aged 25 to 44 accounted for half the debt referrals.
Mr Scott said 70% of all debt is caused by one single traumatic event, be that death, unemployment, sickness or divorce.
He said New Zealand's recovery since going into recession has been tepid.