Business confidence has improved in the central provinces despite ongoing labour shortages.
A December survey of regional Wellington, Gisborne, and Taranaki to Nelson and Marlborough found a net 3.8 percent of businesses expected the economy to improve over the next 12 months.
Business central chief executive John Milford said that was a pleasing result following a negative response in each of the three consecutive quarters.
"Businesses' confidence in their own prospects, as well as the regional economy, also improved over the quarter," he said.
"However, like the national result, they are slightly still down from the same time last year."
The survey, conducted by Wellington Regional Chambers of Commerce and Business Central, found expectations for the regional economy were a net 21 percent positive compared with negative 0.4 percent in September.
Businesses' own situation was a net 41.4 percent positive, compared with 26.7 percent the previous quarter.
Milford said businesses' confidence improved despite staff shortages, with more than a quarter of businesses indicating it posed a barrier to growth.
"Finding skilled labour is a far greater concern than the other stand-out issues of compliance costs (14 percent), and government leadership and policies (10 percent)," he said.
"Just over half (52 percent) of respondents also believe it is harder to find skilled and specialist staff than it was 12 months ago."