Business leaders who are young, female or Māori are among the most optimistic in the country, according to a Westpac NZ report.

The Grow NZ report, which measures the mood and intent of more than 1200 business leaders in New Zealand, showed that 55 per cent of under 35s expected business conditions to improve, compared with 35-59 year olds (41 per cent) and those over 60 (34 per cent).

Furthermore, 40 per cent of women reported business growth in recent years, compared with 32 per cent of men.

Māori, Indian and Asian respondents were also more confident about the future than those identifying as European.


David McLean, Westpac NZ chief executive, said there had been a shift in sentiment since previous surveys in 2011 and 2015.

"This time, reports of positive growth were higher than ever before, however expectations that business conditions would improve have tapered off. That thinking is consistent with the view of Westpac economists, who believe we are now past the peak of the business cycle," McLean said.

The report also showed that large businesses are twice as likely to want to grow compared to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

"Twice as many large businesses are planning to expand than Small and Medium Enterprises. We delved into why that is and found that more SME business leaders than ever before regard maintaining work-life balance as their chief stumbling block," McLean said.

"47 per cent of SMEs said work-life balance was a barrier to expansion and 22 per cent of them said it was their main barrier."

McLean said New Zealand needed to up its game when it comes to supporting businesses that wanted to grow.

"It would be great to have more small businesses feeling equipped to expand, as we know large businesses employ more people, earn more income and have more consistent growth aspirations," McLean said.

"We want to help fledgling enterprises spread their wings through our Westpac Business Growth Grants programme, which we launched this month. It offers mentoring, cash and a chance to go on a business retreat in Hawaii, as part of a push to help upcoming Kiwi businesses reach their full potential."