Almost half of New Zealanders are not saving at all, according to a bank survey.

Mike Heath, managing director for Rabo Direct - which issued the report - said there would be no easy solution to the problem of getting people to save more money.

The survey found 46 per cent of Kiwis are not saving. Heath said the figure had come as a surprise. Last month the Government appointed a taskforce to look at improving the nation's savings. The taskforce is expected to report back next year.

"It will take a lot of time and incremental change - like more money in people's pockets to enable them to save," Heath said.

The survey found 31 per cent of respondents did not save because they had nothing left after paying the bills.

Heath said a lot of people were also focusing on reducing debt. Of those who were paying off debt the highest priority at 61 per cent was credit card debt followed by mortgage debt at 33 per cent.

"It's good to see they are getting the message in terms of retiring debt. It seems people are actively managing their money better but they need to continue doing that."

But the loss of savings in finance companies over the past three years appears to have had an impact on people's priorities when it comes to security in their saving.

In 2007, the highest priority, at 72 per cent, was earning high interest rates with just 30 per cent of people considering security when investing.

But this year security of money, at 73 per cent, was the biggest priority, far outweighing high interest rates at 52 per cent.

"The finance company collapse has played a huge part in that."

While some of the biggest companies collapsed more than three years ago it had taken a good 18 months before the message got through, Heath said.

"People are looking a lot more closely at 'will my money be there when I need it'?" Heath believed the focus would stay on security.

"I don't see things changing for a long time.

"People will continue putting their money into high street banks.

"I think people have been bruised. It has been significant enough that it has touched many New Zealanders." Surprisingly, the most common reason people did save money was for going on holiday.

Heath said he had expected emergency savings for unexpected costs to be the top priority given the job security concerns over the past 18 months.

"It may be there is a need for more education to encourage people to put money away for a rainy day."

Rabo Direct interviewed 1000 New Zealanders for the survey.

PRIORITIES
What people save up for:
* Holiday - 21 per cent
* Unexpected cost - 17 per cent
* Large purchase - 12 per cent
* Retirement - 12 per cent
* Necessities (food, clothes and bills) - 11 per cent
* Renovations - 8 per cent
* TVs and whiteware - 7 per cent
* Luxuries and entertainment - 7 per cent
* Cash investment - 5 per cent