New regulation and hard-to-fill vacancies are the main concerns
Not for the first time, regulation is bugbear No1 when business leaders are asked about about domestic factors affecting confidence in their industry.
One respondent to the Mood of the Boardroom survey said changes to the Health and Safety Act were likely to be the largest single source of cost pressure in his business in the years to come. "It's not that the changes aren't good, but they will carry a high cost."
And Geoff Hunt of Hawkins Group said the Government's approach of transferring risk to contractors was unnecessarily driving up the cost of new buildings.
Shortages of skilled labour runs regulation a close second as a concern.
The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research's quarterly surveys of business opinion have been recording a steadily rising number of firms saying it is getting harder to find skilled labour, albeit not at the levels prevailing in the mid-2000s.
And Statistics New Zealand's annual business operations survey of 36,000 businesses, published in April, found 31 per cent were reporting vacancies that were hard to fill, particularly for tradespeople. The trend has been rising since 2009.
Only 51 per cent of the firms considered all their staff to have all the skills required to do their jobs, and for tradespeople the proportion falls to 44 per cent.
When the statisticians asked what actions they had taken as a result, 39 per cent of the businesses reporting hard-to-fill vacancies said they increased salaries, 35 per cent trained less-qualified recruits, 26 per cent brought in contractors, 23 per cent recruited overseas and 29 per cent stepped up training.
Business leaders' third most pressing concern - labour productivity - is also an issue they can do something about.
The Treasury, in its pre-election economic and fiscal update, expects labour productivity to improve by 1.1 per cent a year over the next four years, compared with an average 1.6 per cent per annum since 1996. It is no coincidence that 1.1 per cent is also its forecast for real wage growth.
New Zealand's labour productivity runs around 20 per cent below OECD average levels.
When three OECD economists tried to figure out why, they could not explain it in terms of policy settings (which they generally approve of) or our record for investment in physical capital (plant and equipment, infrastructure and the like) and human capital (education).
Instead they pointed to "knowledge-based capital" which includes such things as investment in software, research and development, design, market research and brand equity, worker training and organisational change.
Those are all things the inhabitants of boardrooms can affect.
Many of the respondents to the survey do not share the OECD's sanguine view of the adequacy of our infrastructure, however.
Franceska Banga of the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund points to broadband and the need for a second trans-Pacific cable, while Stephen Selwood of the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development expects traffic congestion to be a serious constraint on productivity in Auckland beyond 2020 when the capacity provided by the current construction programme is used up.
The high New Zealand dollar also makes the top five business concerns.
The kiwi has fallen about 4 per cent from its record highs in July, but they were dizzy heights indeed, representing the steepest appreciation since 2010 in real effective exchange rate terms of any of the 67 currencies the Bank for International Settlements monitors.
Whether the recent decline represents broader US dollar appreciation or the markets recognising a 45 per cent drop in export dairy prices, or the impact of Reserve Bank warnings, exporters will take it -- and more of the same please.
Progress on the post-earthquake rebuild of Christchurch -- and construction cost pressures arising from it -- are another area of concern.
The $40 billion task is a major claim on the country's resources at a time when there is no shortage of construction demand elsewhere. So far, though, there has not been much sign of the spillover to broader inflation which the Reserve Bank is wary of, and inflation generally does not rate as much of a concern among the survey's respondents.
Interest rates rises, however, do. Although the Reserve Bank is now on hold as it assesses the impact of the flurry of rate rises it has imposed since March, the only question is how long it spends on that landing, not whether the next steps will be up or down.
It was starting, after all, from an official cash rate at all-time lows, delivering the lowest retail interest rates for 50 years, and the OCR is still a full percentage point below where the bank estimates a neutral rate lies.
On taxation, the business leaders are more concerned about personal than corporate tax rates.
Both Labour and the Greens say they would raise the top marginal tax rate for the income bracket into which chief executives are likely to fall.
Act, and to a much more modest extent the Greens, both advocate a lower company tax rate, the former as an economic panacea, the latter as a way of recycling the proceeds of its proposed carbon tax.
But the levels of government spending and borrowing both rank well down the list of business concerns.
Relative to the size of the economy government spending has returned to the levels, around 30 per cent of GDP, that prevailed in the years before the recession, and the Treasury forecasts expect it to stay there for the next four years.
Both major parties are committed to hauling down the curve for government debt, relative to GDP, from what are already low levels in developed country standards.