Seventy-one per cent of New Zealand's small businesses expect to grow their operations in 2017, indicating strong confidence in the country's economy, a new survey has found.
The Asia Pacific Small Business Survey 2016, commissioned by global accounting firm CPA Australia, had New Zealand performing better than the economic power-houses of Australia and Singapore, while trailing the developing economies of Indonesia and Vietnam.
One in five New Zealand small businesses reported hiring new staff in 2016 - double the figure for Australia - while nearly 60 per cent of New Zealand respondents reported growing their business last year.
New Zealand was also the only country in the survey where expectations for employment in 2016 actually matched what occurred.
CPA Australia chief executive Alex Malley said the growth and employment expectations for New Zealand were particularly noteworthy.
"Contrast New Zealand's performance with Australia, particularly around actual and intended employment, and it makes sobering reading on this side of the ditch," Malley said.
"Small business growth is critical to a nation's economic health and this report suggests New Zealand is in a very good place at the moment."
However, there were a few items of concern, particularly around the slow uptake of social media and online selling in New Zealand when compared to competitors in Asia.
The survey found that small businesses that are growing are significantly more likely to be focussing on innovation, e-commerce, social media, training and exporting.
New Zealand topped the rankings of small businesses reporting that they found it easy to access external finance over the past year. However, looking ahead, there was a drop in the number of small businesses reporting they expected it to be easy to access finance in the future.
"With great uncertainty around global market conditions, that might be one for business leaders to keep an eye on in 2017 and beyond," Malley said.
The online survey was conducted with a random sample of business owners or managers between October 6 and 26, 2016.
In total, 2971 participants completed the survey - 301 from New Zealand, 508 from Australia, 621 from China, 311 from Hong Kong, 303 from Indonesia, 307 from Malaysia, 310 from Singapore and 310 from Vietnam.