NZ house consents at four-year high

A house under construction in Clyde St, Dunedin. Photo by Craig Baxter.
A house under construction in Clyde St, Dunedin. Photo by Craig Baxter.
New-house consent numbers nationally rose 24% during 2012 to a four-year high, with about a quarter driven by an almost 70% increase in Canterbury.

However, apartment numbers for December were up 57%, at 232, largely underpinning the new-house gains which would otherwise have been down.

Although the data gives some credence to the Canterbury rebuilding getting properly under way, some commentators are highlighting the increases are below expectations, coming off a low base and not meeting national housing requirements.

Nationally, new-house numbers rose by 3267 to 16,929 - the largest gain since calendar 2008 - with Canterbury up 1642, or 69%, to 4037 and Auckland up 810, or 21%, to 4582 new houses, Statistics New Zealand data released yesterday shows.

Just over half of the 232 new apartments were in Auckland and Wellington, while 127 were retirement village units.

Fletcher Building, the lead contractor for the rebuilding of Christchurch, this week passed the $1 billion mark worth of repairs, reflected by its share price hovering around $9.42 yesterday, closing in on a possible five-year high of $9.59.

Of the seven South Island regions, Canterbury eclipsed allcomers with almost 300 new-home consents for December, Otago was next but well below 100, and the other five were in a range of 20 to 30 homes.

ASB economist Christina Leung said although residential consent issuance rebounded in December, that was boosted by an increase in consents for apartments, which tended to be volatile from month to month.

Registered Master Builders' Federation chief executive Warwick Quinn said yesterday although the increased work levels were welcome, overall building activity was still quite low and coming off record low levels.

He cautioned that while there would again be more new residential consents issued in 2013, it was not on the back of a strong economy but in response to housing problems in Auckland and Christchurch.

Ms Leung said although house-building demand continued to recover, it was underpinned by rebuilding in Canterbury and increased demand in Auckland, in light of the more acute housing market pressures there. Westpac senior economist, Michael Gordon, said construction would continue to boost economic growth during the next two years, largely, but not totally due, to post-quake building needs.

Excluding apartment units, residential consents were otherwise down 1%, after a 4.6% rise in November, Mr Gordon said.

Mr Quinn said Auckland and Canterbury were the only regions with rising prices, which generated building activity to meet a shortfall in supply.

- simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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