Business confidence has slumped to a four-month low as the US and European debt crises intensify, the BNZ's monthly survey shows.
Only 22 percent of respondents in the August survey expected the economy to improve in the year ahead, compared with 45 percent in July and a record 57 percent in June.
The responses largely came in on Friday after sharemarkets fell sharply overseas but before the Standard and Poors downgrading of the US credit rating from AAA to AA+.
BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander said many expressed concern about the high exchange rate.
"Few respondents however mentioned explicitly their concerns about the global economic environment and one suspects a broader theme in play may be some growing disappointment that the domestic economy has not yet displayed the strength some may have been hoping for."
Caution dominated in the retail sector, with "fewer tales of absolute woe than in past surveys", according to Alexander.
Business is still slow in the finance, accounting and automotive industries, while optimism was higher among agriculture respondents, aside from increasing worries about the high dollar.
Property development was similarly choked by high costs and construction reported mixed results. Real estate listings were in short supply, but buyers remained hesitant.