Our firefighters are not only saving lives and property - they have the best reputation in the public sector.

A newly released Colmar Brunton survey found Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) is at the top of the list when it comes to trust, social responsibility and fairness - and in second place for leadership and success.

Overall those rankings meant FENZ has the best reputation out of 50 national public-sector organisations in the country.

Tourism NZ and Maritime NZ have come in at second and third place in the Public Sector Reputation Index.

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FENZ chief executive Rhys Jones said they were "very pleased" with the public confidence in their 14,000 firefighters and support staff.

"We often come into contact with people at the worst times in their lives. To do their jobs our firefighters need people to trust them and follow their advice. The survey suggests we continue to be in a strong position for that to happen."

Colmar Brunton group account director Grant Bell said reputation was particularly important for the public sector because government departments and agencies are ultimately answerable to New Zealanders.

"Around the world, the prevailing narrative has been that trust in government and other key public institutions is in decline."

However, Bell said New Zealand is bucking the global trend.

"The public sector agencies we measure continue to improve each year on the core elements of 'trust', namely listening, using taxpayer money responsibly, protecting personal information and being trustworthy."

The survey, which was carried out online during April and May, also asked 2750 people how agencies communicated "wellbeing" - something that is at the top of the Government's agenda.

FENZ, Police, Sport NZ, NZ Defence Force, DoC, and the Ministry of Health were the only agencies viewed by more than half New Zealanders as positively impacting wellbeing.

"For each of the other 44 agencies, more than half of the population are not sure how they contribute to wellbeing."

Bell said agencies could do better in this area by sharing what they are doing with the public.

"The top six agencies have an obvious impact on many New Zealanders' lives but also have a clear story around their contribution to wellbeing.

"For example, NZ Police have embraced social media as part of their strategy to have a more personal connection with Kiwis. Also, Sport NZ released their high-profile Women and Girls Sport and Active Recreation strategy late last year, focusing on participation for all New Zealanders."

Colmar Brunton only released the top 10 and did not publish the full list as they wanted the exercise to be positive, rather than naming and shaming those perceived to be struggling, Bell said.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall. Photo / Nick Reed
Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall. Photo / Nick Reed

Tourism NZ chief executive Stephen England-Hall said he was "incredibly proud".

"Tourism is our country's top export earner and Tourism New Zealand is working hard to ensure that the sector gives more than it takes, enriching our communities as well as our economy."

DoC's director of customer engagement Heather Peacocke said there was growing interest in conservation through campaigns like Predator Free New Zealand, and others to protect native taonga and special places.

There had also been huge growth in engagement through digital and social channels, and sharing stories of those working to look after New Zealand.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Police Commissioner Mike Bush. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said he welcomed the results that ranked the organisation second for trust and in the top 10 overall for reputation.

"These results and our own surveying reflect the fantastic work our staff do in communities across New Zealand every day."

An audit this year applauded police for its use of social media in increasing public engagement, but suggested it dial back on puppy pictures and post more about operational police work.

Just 8 per cent of its posts related to preventing crime and 16 per cent to road safety warnings.

Housing New Zealand was ranked as the most improved agency.

Chief executive Andrew McKenzie said he was pleased with the result. The organisation had been putting in huge effort through increased engagement and support with tenants, improving quality of existing housing stock and building new houses to modern standards.

Worksafe NZ, EQC, Ministry of Health and the Department of Corrections were the other most improved respectively.