Consumer confidence eased slightly this month, possibly because of higher petrol prices, but it remains at the second highest level since the middle of 2010.
The Westpac McDermott Miller Consumer Confidence Index was 115.4 points this month, compared with 116.6 in June's survey.
Despite the slight dip in confidence, the survey conducted in early September still pointed to a strengthening economic recovery.
The survey also showed a sharp fall in those saying it was a good time to buy a major household item - because of a "lack of spending money". This is down to the lowest levels since the middle of last year.
The gap between improving private sector confidence and worsening public sector gloom is the second highest on record as confidence moved in opposite directions.
Private sector confidence rose in the quarter to its highest level since the survey started in 2006, up 3 points to more than 125, in a sign that the private sector is getting ready to take advantage of an improving economy.
But government workers became more gloomy in the latest survey, with confidence levels down 1.4 points to 114.1.
Just a net 4 per cent of public sector workers expected good economic times in the year ahead, the survey shows.
That was in sharp contrast to the net 26.6 per cent of private sector consumers who expected good economic times over the next year, up more than 7 points from June, with a large chunk of that optimism put down to "effective government economic policies".
Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens said there were signs of a more cautious attitude towards spending.
"Higher petrol prices may be playing a role here, leaving less disposable income in consumers' pockets," he said.
People may also be worried about the impact of rising fixed term mortgage rates and the Reserve Bank's new restrictions on low deposit loans. That may limit their ability to buy a home, or the value of their home.
"We noted a particularly big drop in willingness to spend on big-ticket items in Auckland," Stephens said.
Nationally, there was a sharp fall in the net percentage of households saying it was a good time to buy a major item, from a net 34.4 per cent to 24.7 per cent, the lowest point since June last year.
The net percentage of households expecting their financial situation to improve in the coming year stayed "cautiously optimistic" at 9.6 per cent, Westpac said.
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