The recovery in New Zealand construction activity has been firmly established following a surge in building consents in March, the latest data shows.
According to figures from Statistics New Zealand, at 1,559 (before seasonal adjustments), the number of new dwelling units approved for construction in March was higher than for any other month since September, 2008.
Even after seasonal adjustments are factored in, the March figures remain impressive. Excluding apartments, dwelling unit approval numbers are up 11.7 per cent to 1,297, marking the highest level since June, 2010.
With apartments added in, last month’s seasonally adjusted approval numbers rose nearly 19.8 per cent to 1,494. Stand-alone housing approval numbers have now risen or remained unchanged on a seasonally adjusted basis for nine of the past 12 months; including apartments, seasonally adjusted dwelling numbers have now risen for eight of the past twelve months.
This news means new work in the country’s housing sector is coming in faster than before.
The good news spreads beyond housing – at $325 million, the ‘trend’ value of non-residential construction (‘trend’ values attempt to eliminate both seasonal factors and short term, once-off movements) was up 1.2 per cent in March and was higher than at any other time since November, 2008.
Housing where it’s needed most
As well as being good news for builders and construction firms, the latest figures indicate that new housing is being built where it is needed most.
In Auckland, which the Department of Building and Planning describes as the country’s least affordable city, just over 500 dwellings were approved for construction in March compared to around 300 in March last year.
Meanwhile, in Canterbury, where many residents continue to be impacted by housing shortages after last year’s earthquake despite government efforts to rebuild and provide temporary housing, the number of new residential consents came in at nearly 300 during the month after having registered fewer than 200 in an admittedly abnormally weak month in March, 2011 in the weeks immediately following the earthquake.
The country’s Department of Building and Housing has consistently said both regions need homebuilding levels to rise in order to relieve pressures on housing availability and affordability. It is welcome news, therefore, that these areas are receiving the bulk of the benefit from the uptick in residential construction implied by the consent numbers.