Building consents soar 19pc in April

The trend for new home consents has been increasing for the past 25 consecutive months. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The trend for new home consents has been increasing for the past 25 consecutive months. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New Zealand's new building consents rose to a five-year high last month as new apartments and retirement village units added to the weight of pending construction permits.

Building consents lifted 43 per cent to 1,755 in April from the same month a year earlier, the most in a month since April 2008, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Seasonally adjusted, residential consents rose 19 per cent to 1,779 last month. Stripping out the typically volatile apartment season, consents were still up a seasonally adjusted 13 per cent to 1,603.

Consents were up across all of the major centres, with Hawke's Bay the only region to issue fewer new dwelling permits compared to April 2012.

Some 17,922 new dwellings have been issued building consents in the 12 months ended April 31, worth $6.66 billion.

That's 21 per cent more consents issued than a year earlier, at a 26 per cent greater value.

The figures come after Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler gave the heating housing market another serve in a speech this morning as property values threaten to reach bubble-territory, putting the country's financial stability at risk.

Wheeler said the government's plans to speed up the consenting process should help Auckland supply issues, and "demand for housing could also be moderated by changing the tax treatment of housing to reduce its attractiveness as an investment to other assets."

The value of non-residential building consents rose 35 per cent to $308 million in April from the same month a year earlier, and was 6.9 per cent higher on an annual basis at $3.95 billion.

All building work, including residential, non-residential, alterations and additions, rose 41 per cent to $954 million in April from the same month a year earlier, and was up 18 per cent at $10.61 billion.

ASB economist Christina Leung said while the rebound in building consents was stronger than expected, growth in consents in Auckland still remained too gradual to address the supply/demand imbalances.

"Dwelling consent issuance had been strong in Auckland over early 2013 as stronger house price inflation encouraged house-building in the region, but this increase in house-building demand appears to be slowing.

"This is a concern, particularly as the recovery in net migration inflows is likely to put further demand pressures on the housing market over the coming year."

ANZ economist Mark Smith said the large rise in April was likely to be a result of the early timing of Easter, but also illustrated "the tailwinds provided by a strengthening housing market".

"Rising Canterbury issuance confirms the rebuild is on track, but low issuance in Auckland is unlikely to assuage Reserve Bank concerns over the speed at which rising Auckland supply will contain the buoyant market.

"The steep rise in construction costs is another warning of looming inflation headaches, to contend with the high NZD to keep the OCR low," Smith said.

Another economist, Michael Gordon of Westpac, also pointed out the effects of the early Easter and said there appeared to be an upward trend in residential building consents.

Housing consent numbers for April 2013, compared with April 2012, were:

• 1,755 new houses, including apartments (up 43 per cent)

• 1,541 new houses, excluding apartments (up 41 per cent)

• 214 apartments (up 76 from 138).

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