The value of residential building work put in place rose in the fourth quarter of 2015, led by Auckland, while total building activity increased to its highest level since records began 26 years ago.

The seasonally adjusted value of residential building work rose 2.8 per cent in the fourth quarter from three months earlier, Statistics New Zealand said. A 2.3 per cent gain for non-residential building contributed to an overall 2.5 per cent gain in building work.

Total building work put in place beat market estimates of a 2 per cent gain. In Auckland, the actual value of residential work in current prices surged 17 per cent from the same quarter of 2014 to $982 million, while in Canterbury the actual value fell 7.1 per cent to $642 million. The overall value for Canterbury actually rose 5.1 per cent to $1.1 billion, however, reflecting the shift in focus in the earthquake rebuild to commercial work, with non-residential work up 27 per cent to $492 million.

"With the trend in building consent volumes still sharply up, we expect the trend in building work put in place at a national level to continue north for some time," said David Norman, an economist at Westpac Banking Corp. "The story of the residential component of Canterbury winding down is being reinforced by a decline of 0.5 per cent in seasonally adjusted values in that region after weak growth in the two previous quarters."


Among other regions, the total value of building work rose 2.9 per cent in Waikato and 0.7 per cent in Wellington, and the rest of the North Island recorded a 6.4 per cent gain, driven by increased work in the Bay of Plenty.