Smaller manufacturing and construction firms are banking on stronger activity in Christchurch and Auckland as an antidote to sluggish demand and rising costs.
ANZ's latest Business Micro Scope report shows levels of optimism fell, with a net 23% of firms with 20 or fewer staff expecting a pick-up in their own prospects.
Optimism about the general economy retreated, as did investment plans, while a net number of firms now expect lower profits in the coming year.
In contrast, hiring intentions rose for the first time in a year.
Confidence in the farming sector hit a three year low, but the ANZ's managing director of business banking Fred Ohlsson says small manufacturers and construction firms remain buoyant.
"Manufacturing and construction firms have a more positive outlook," he says. There is also a pick-up in the property market, particularly in Auckland, but also in Christchurch.
"Businesses are doing it tough ... but businesses which manage themselves well are in good shape," says Mr Ohlsson.