New Zealand residential building consents dipped in March after a strong rise in February.

Seasonally adjusted dwelling consents fell 1.8 per cent to 2,651 in March after rising a revised 17 per cent in February, Statistics New Zealand said. New housing permits fell a seasonally adjusted 5.2 per cent to 1,758.

On an actual basis, annual residential permits rose 10 per cent to 30,626 in the year ended March 31. Of that total, housing consents rose 8.7 per cent to 21,434, apartments were up 5.3 per cent to 2,671 and retirement village units eased 0.7 per cent to 1,915.

"Residential dwelling consent issuance paused for breath in March, with a 1.8 per cent decline in the number of consents issued over the month. But after a large 17 per cent jump last month, some pull back was to be expected, and we are still left with a positive outlook for building over the coming year," said Westpac Bank senior economist Satish Ranchhod.


New Zealand's central bank has long signalled that an overheated housing market is a key risk to financial stability and that much of the solution lies in supply, in particular in the nation's largest city of Auckland. The cost and lack of housing is also shaping up to be a key issue ahead of the September election.

Today's figures show 942 new consents worth $358 million were issued in Auckland in March, compared to 800 permits worth $342m in February. Consents in Canterbury ticked up to 491 worth $192m versus 361 worth $130m a month earlier.

"Homebuilding in the (Canterbury) region has pulled back now that the residential rebuild is past its peak, but it does appear to be finding a base at firm levels," said Ranchhod.

Including alterations, the value of building work consented in the March month was a record $2 billion, Stats NZ said. The value of residential work, including alterations was $1.2b, up 17 per cent on the year. The value of non-residential building work rose 82 per cent on the year to $837m in March, while the floor area consented rose 41 per cent on the year to 325,000 square meters.

"A consent for the Park Hyatt Hotel in Auckland helped boost the value of non-residential consents to its highest-ever level," business indicators senior manager Neil Kelly said. "This month's spike in commercial consents shows there's still quite a bit of building work in the pipeline," Kelly added.

On an annual basis, the value of non-residential work rose 11 per cent to $6.46b while floor area shrank 14 per cent to 2.73 million square metres.