More consents for new houses were issued in October than in any month since May 2008, Statistics New Zealand says, with the number of new consents last month up 32% versus October 2011.
Statistics NZ's industry and labour statistics manager, Blair Cardno, says including apartments, there were 1,639 new houses consented in October.
Excluding apartments, 1,471 new houses were consented, an increase of 28%, and 168 new apartments gained consents, almost double the 89 in October last year.
Cardno says Canterbury led the increase in new houses, with a year-on-year rise of 122.
The value of earthquake-related building consents in Canterbury was NZ$52 million in October. The overall value of non-residential building consents in October was NZ$392 million, a 42% rise from October 2011.
Seasonally adjusted consents down
After a moderate increase in September, the seasonally adjusted number of new houses, including apartments, fell 1.5% in October, Cardno says. Excluding apartments, the seasonally adjusted number of new houses decreased 2%.
ASB economist Christina Leung estimates residential consents issued in Canterbury fell 9.9% in October from September on a seasonally-adjusted basis.
"While disappointing, the decline follows substantial improvement over the first half of 2012, and beyond the monthly volatility we see the underlying trend as one of a recovery in house building demand in Canterbury," Leung said.
Westpac senior economist Michael Gordon says the seasonally adjusted figure held up slightly better than he had expected after a sizeable September bounce (due to a 31% spike in the Waikato region), maintaining the last year's trend of strong growth off a low base.
"Non-residential building work is also trending higher after a couple of years of stagnation, and is ramping up particularly quickly in the Canterbury region. Both measures support our view that construction - driven largely but not entirely by post-quake rebuilding - will account for a rising share of Gross Domestic Product growth over the next year," Gordon says.
Strong month for non-residential Canterbury consents
Meanwhile, Leung notes Statistics NZ reported that the NZ$118 million of non-residential building consents issued in Canterbury in October was the highest monthly value since April 2009, when the Christchurch International Airport development was consented.
"This suggests rebuilding of non-residential buildings in the region is finally getting underway," she says.
Overall Leung says despite the lower seasonally adjusted number of residential consents issued in October, ASB's economists continue to see the underlying trend as one of a recovery in house building demand.
"In particular, stronger housing market activity appears to be encouraging a recovery in house building demand. We expect this recovery in house building demand will continue over the coming year, with rebuilding in Canterbury likely to provide a further boost to residential construction activity," Leung says.
"The recovery in non-residential building consents issued is encouraging, and we expect rebuilding will also provide a continued improvement in commercial construction over the coming year. Nonetheless, the easing in residential consents issued in October highlights the modest nature of the recovery in construction activity at the moment, and there remains little urgency for the Official Cash Rate to be increased. We continue to expect the Reserve Bank will remain on hold until September 2013."
Statistics NZ gets its building consents data from the country's territorial authorities.
(Update adds economists' comments).