Difficulties in recruiting skilled staff are holding back Hawke's Bay businesses and affecting business confidence, a new survey shows.

Some 829 businesses responding to the latest survey by the Wellington Regional Chambers of Commerce and Business Central showed business confidence across central New Zealand was being affected by difficulties finding the right staff and continuing uncertainty about Government policy.

"Overall, our survey found a net 12 per cent of businesses are pessimistic about New Zealand's economic performance in the year ahead," Wellington Chamber and Business Central Chief Executive John Milford said.

Some 40 per cent of business respondents are pessimistic, while just 28 per cent are positive. Some 32 per cent said economic performance will remain the same.

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The survey now covers the Business Central area, which includes Gisborne, New Plymouth, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, and Nelson. It also covers the Wellington Regional Chambers of Commerce, which include Kapiti, Hutt Valley, Porirua, Wairarapa, and Wellington.

"Three key drivers stand out. Businesses say they are most concerned about uncertainty around the Government's policies, finding the right staff, and future employment law changes.

"These concerns are a further wake-up call for the Government. Businesses are not in a confidence rut simply because they don't like the Government. They hold genuine concerns about its policy direction.

"When asked about the main barriers to improving general business confidence, 62 per cent of respondents cite general uncertainty around the impact of the Government's policies.

"In light of this ongoing issue, I urge the Labour-led Government to provide certainty and clarity on their economic plan.

"Some 58 per cent of businesses we asked think the Government has no plan of action to raise New Zealand's economic performance, while 50 per cent are unsure whether the newly announced Business Advisory Council will help that."

Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wayne Walford said while businesses were doing well in Hawke's Bay, staffing issues and uncertainty surrounding government policy needed to be addressed.

"I certainly concur with the message about uncertainty around Government policy decisions and future direction for business. Hawke's Bay is doing good business right now and I am not hearing a pessimistic view point, more a careful watchful brief on the Government policies for business."

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That resulted in cautious employment decisions, with business owners choosing to hold on to businesses in their current form rather than risk capital investment or selling.

"Chamber members are still struggling to find specific skills to meet current orders and this is impeding growth."