New Zealand new dwelling consents dropped in March, reflecting the lowest monthly number of apartment approvals in more than three years.
Consents fell 9.1 per cent, seasonally adjusted, last month, according to Statistics New Zealand. Excluding apartments, consents were down 3.1 per cent.
Canterbury was a bright spot in March, with 444 consents for homes, the highest in six years, with record numbers in Waimakariri and Selwyn districts, which are benefitting from people relocating from damaged communities in Christchurch. Compared to March 2012, consents fell by 118 in Auckland, 45 in Wellington, 21 in Bay of Plenty and 20 in Otago.
Just 16 new apartments were consented in March, the lowest since February 2010. No apartments were consented in Auckland, compared with 104 in March last year.
The total number of approvals for all building types rose 10 per cent from a year earlier to $937 million.
The weaker consent numbers will be closely watched by the Reserve Bank, which has been eyeing heat in the Auckland and Christchurch property markets for any signs house price inflation spills over into the broader economy.
Deputy governor Grant Spencer said on April 8 that a monetary policy response "would become more likely" if house price and credit expansion begin to fuel excessive consumption spending and inflationary pressures.
Non-residential building consents rose by 20 per cent to $365 million compared with March 2012. The biggest increase was a $128 million increase in hostels and boarding houses, boosted by prison developments in Auckland.