Confidence is returning to Tauranga's recession-hit building industry with the number of consents issued for new houses more than double a year ago.
"Things are looking brighter, it is definitely picking up," Tauranga Master Builders president Brian Foster said.
Consents for new houses in the shortened working month of December totalled 45 - up from 21 a year earlier.
It continued the trend in which consents issued by the Tauranga City Council shot up by 25 per cent in November to reach 78.
And this month was shaping up to eclipse the 48 consents issued in January 2011. The council's building services manager, Rob Wickman said they were processing 150 jobs that had come in before Christmas.
He singled out the Bob Owens Retirement Village at Bethlehem, the surge in building at The Lakes and work getting underway on the Wairakei block at Papamoa.
Mr Foster said things were getting a bit more back to normal. "You can't run on really tight margins for too long."
Building companies would be looking for more staff if the pattern continued. "A lot of guys have gone to Australia and Christchurch. We could quite possibly end up with a shortage of skilled guys."
November's figures for Tauranga were the second highest for the previous 12 months, beaten only by October when 106 consents were issued.
The Western Bay continued to dominate building activity in the region. Consents issued by the city and the Western Bay District Council contributed 98 of the 111 issued for the whole region in November. Rotorua and Whakatane were six each.
The consents were worth $266 million to the Bay's economy in the 12 months to November 30 - $30 million in November alone.
"It's good news," said Dave Shaw from Shaw Builders.
"Yes, things have been tough [because of the recession] but this industry has kept ticking along."
Tauranga's Classic Builders director Matt Lagerberg said 2012 started slowly but there had been a steady increase in foot-traffic through show homes since June.
"In the last quarter of last year it was pretty good - numbers were up 50 per cent on a year earlier."
He attributed some of the increase to 16,675 new building consents issued in the 12 months ended November 30, 2012 - worth $4.9 billionlow interest rates. "It's a lot more affordable for someone to get into a first home."
Mr Lagerberg was optimistic that business would remain steady this year. "It's only been a week but there's been fairly good inquiry."
Nationally, more than 1500 new residential buildings were consented during November - worth $524 million.
Statistics New Zealand said the trend for new houses was up by 41 per cent since March 2011, excluding apartments. Canterbury led the November increase - with 171 more newly consented houses than a year ago.
Home improvements spurred by building reality shows and New Year's resolutions rocketed in the first week of 2013, according to online trades staff database Builderscrack.co.nz.
Builderscrack spokesman Keith Roberts said 47 per cent more jobs had been posted on the site by Auckland homeowners and listings nationally were up 30 per cent year-on-year.
Housing consent numbers for November 2012
TAURANGA CITY COUNCIL
62 issued in November 2011
727 issued in the 12 months ended November 30, 2012
WESTERN BAY OF PLENTY DISTRICT COUNCIL
18 issued in November 2011
171 issued in the 12 months ended November 30, 2012
1658 new houses, including apartments (up 20 per cent on 2011) worth $524 million
1619 new houses (up 27 per cent)
39 new apartments (down from 109)