Financial advisers and politicians - especially Act Party members - are regarded as among the least trustworthy people in New Zealand, a survey has found.

Thanks to high-profile financial failures such as Hanover Finance and Bridgecorp, financial planners have fallen into disrepute, coming in at number 32 of 40 on the Reader's Digest annual survey of the most-trusted professions.

Perennial cellar dwellers telemarketers (40), politicians (39) and sex workers (38) took the bottom three spots, with journalists and tow truck drivers coming in at 35th and 34th places respectively.

Rodney Hide, the Local Government Minister, and his Act Party colleague Sir Roger Douglas are among those least trusted by the nation.

The pair - who took spots 83 and 84, respectively - were beaten only by Maori Party MP Hone Harawira, who came dead last on the annual list of the country's 85 most-trusted.

Mr Hide was yesterday untroubled by his perilously low placing, saying he had not heard of the survey and would "continue to do the best job I can".

But those of us caught in unpopular professions, take heart.

According to recruiting agency Randstad, an untrustworthy reputation is more about the perception of the profession that has been gained over time and not about the individual.

"It is sometimes perception versus reality. Within every profession at any level of the list there will be interactions that you have that might not be positive," Randstad regional manager Brien Keegan said.

"The people who are successful in the areas that come up as the least-trusted professions are people that gain trust and become a trusted adviser of the individual or organisation that they are working with."

On the positive side, firefighters are the most-trusted profession, while SAS hero Willie Apiata has taken the number one spot in the most-trusted-person ranks for the third year running.

He was followed by Fair Go presenter Kevin Milne, who secured the number two spot on his first appearance in the survey.

"When I look at the list and see my name in among people like Peter Snell, I find it unbelievable," Milne told the Herald yesterday.

Though he regretted not beating Corporal Apiata to the top spot, Milne hoped one day to meet the VC winner.

"He's obviously a difficult man to knock off the top - and quite rightly."

But it's not an easy list to break into, full stop.

Six of the top 10 - including children's author Margaret Mahy, netballer Irene Van Dyk and former All Black Sir Colin Meads - have held their spots for the past three years.

Other newcomers to the top 10 this year are director Sir Peter Jackson and chef and author Alison Holst.

Ambulance officers, pilots, nurses and doctors occupy the upper echelons of the top 10 most-trusted professions list, ably supported by pharmacists (6), veterinarians (7), armed forces (8), police officers (9) and teachers (10).

The director of operations and training for the New Zealand Fire Service, Paul McGill, told the Herald the community nature of the organisation encouraged trust.

"The nature of our role is very positive - we are here to help people in distress," Mr McGill said.

However, topping the list does not necessarily have the positive repercussions that might be expected.

Auckland Senior Station Officer Matt Camplin says the list makes no difference to the job - or the pay.

"We are still the most trusted but still get paid very little."

Most trusted people

1. Corporal Willie Apiata, Victoria Cross recipient
2. Kevin Milne, presenter of Fair Go
3. Sir Peter Snell, scientist and former Olympian
4. Margaret Mahy, children's author
5. John Kirwan, former All Black and and mental illness spokesman
6. Sir Colin Meads, former All Black
7. Sir Peter Jackson, film director
8. Alison Holst, celebrity chef and author
9. Irene van Dyk, netballer
10. Valerie Vili, Olympic shotputter

Least trusted people

76. Phil Goff, Labour leader
77. Bill English, Deputy Prime Minister
78. Pita Sharples, co-leader, Maori Party
79. Mark Bryers, businessman
80. Winston Peters, leader, New Zealand First
81. Tariana Turia, co-leader, Maori Party
82. John Banks, Mayor of Auckland
83. Rodney Hide, leader, Act Party
84. Sir Roger Douglas, Act politician
85. Hone Harawira, Maori Party politician

Most trusted professions

1. Firefighters
2. Ambulance officers
3. Pilots
4. Nurses
5. Doctors
6. Pharmacists
7. Veterinarians
8. Armed forces
9. Police officers
10. Teachers

Least trusted professionals

31. Fast-food servers
32. Financial planners
33. CEOs
34. Tow truck drivers
35. Journalists
36. Real estate agents
37. Car salesmen
38. Sex workers
39. Politicians
40. Telemarketers