The biggest residential building boost in a decade will not make a big dent in Auckland's housing availability woes, but is a step in the right direction, an economist says.
Statistics New Zealand figures, released today, show nationwide residential building activity grew for the fourth consecutive quarter in the year to March 31.
The 12 per cent surge to $1.1 billion of residential activity, the biggest increase since the September 2002 quarter, was mostly driven by Canterbury, where the post-earthquake rebuild is picking up pace.
Residential activity in Canterbury increased 21 per cent on the previous quarter, compared with 11 per cent for the rest of New Zealand.
Westpac economist Nathan Penny said there was also strong growth in Auckland, where residential activity had picked up in annual terms by 28 per cent, but that was overshadowed by Christchurch.
"It's still a lot lower than it was back in the mid-2000s, but heading up after hitting some pretty low levels about 2010-11.''
He said it was still early days in terms of increasing Auckland's housing supply.
"The numbers are increasing, but they're coming off a low base, so it won't be making much of a dent in the pent-up demand that's out there. So it's very much early days, but a step in the right direction.''
Statistics NZ's industry and labour statistics manager, Blair Cardno, said activity in the residential building sector had been steadily rising since the low of September 2011, and was now at a level last seen in late 2008.
Mr Cardno said the boost was driven by Canterbury, but Auckland was also contributing.
"It's the Auckland and Canterbury regions that are really pushing the increase in building consents, and so that's translating across into particularly residential activity.''
Both central and local government are trying to tackle Auckland's housing availability crunch.
The Government last month announced new measures to increase the supply of housing, including the ability to take control of planning and consents for new houses if councils were too slow in freeing up land.
It has also signed an accord with Auckland Council which aims to add a further 39,000 houses to the region over the next three years - more than double the 15,000 new units built over the last three years.