Building consents paused for breath in March, but managed to hit a monthly record of $2 billion.
About $1.2b was for residential building work, which eased 1.8 per cent in March, following a strong 17 per cent rise the previous month.
Dwelling consents are up 20 per cent for the year, and after some wobbles last year, economists said consents seemed to have stabilised.
“Strong population growth had lifted housing demand in many parts of the country, “and we expect strong housing construction to continue at least for another year,” ASB economist Jane Turner said.
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Infometrics’ Mieke Welvaert was less convinced, saying financing and other constraints would see consents dip for a period, potentially until next September.
“Rising building costs suggest that there will still be downward pressure on consent demand over the next few quarters,” she said.
Outside Auckland and Canterbury, there were widespread declines on consents, particularly in Hawkes Bay and Manawatu.
However, Auckland consents grew 4 per cent over the month, adding to a 20 per cent lift the previous month.
Much of it was for multi-unit dwellings such as apartments and townhouses, reinforcing Westpac’s expectation that strong economic incentives and population growth would keep house building steaming along.
It was imperative Auckland stayed on track, given it had consented just over 10,000 new dwellings in the last year, below population growth, Westpac’s Satish Ranchhod said.
Canterbury too had improved, appearing to find its feet now that the residential rebuild was past its peak.
Non-residential building also hit a new monthly record, surpassing $800m for the first time.
A “thumping” $837m worth of consents were issued, nearly double the usual monthly amount.
Consents, which are up 11 per cent for the year, were boosted in March by a $167m lift in hotel and motel work to meet the country’s dire shortage of tourist rooms.
A big part of that was a $141m consent for Auckland’s Park Hyatt Hotel.
With infrastructure spending on the rise, non-residential building consents were expected to climb further.
“The pipeline for non-residential activity remains large,” ANZ’s Natalie Denne said.