House building consenting has set a new 45-year record but what effect coronavirus will have on the multi-billion dollar sector remains unknown.

StatsNZ data just out showed 37,882 new residential buildings were consented in the year to February, the highest since the mid-1970s.

"The number of new homes consented was up 3620 from the same period in 2019, a rise of 11 per cent," StatsNZ said.

Melissa McKenzie, construction statistics manager, said: "The number of new homes consented in the February 2020 year is the highest in about 45 years, boosted by more new homes for Auckland."

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A total of 14,854 new homes were consented in Auckland, more than 1000 than in the previous February year.

Nationally, there were many more higher-density style homes consented - townhouses, flats, and units.

"Building consent statistics may be affected in the coming months by the current lock-down because of Covid-19. However, any delay to or cancellation of already consented building plans would be seen in the quarterly value of building work put in place, not in monthly consent statistics," McKenzie said.

All construction activity, except that for essential services, has been shut down. Retirement village businesses listed on the NZX have announced they have stopped building.

The RLB Crane Index out on Saturday showed just under 130 long-term tower and crawler cranes nationall were standing idle.

StatsNZ said retail and hospitality building consents were at high levels in the latest data. The value of consents for hotels, motels, and other short-term accommodation was more than $600 million for the first time in the February 2020 year.

In the same period, the value of building consents issued for shops, restaurant and bars was also at a historically high level of about $1b, although down 12 per cent on the previous year.

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Non-residential building consents totalled $7.3b, up 2.3 per cent from the February 2019 year. Building types with the highest values were education building worth $1b, down 6.1 per cent, shops, restaurants, and bars of the same value, down 12 per cent and offices, administration and public transport buildings worth $974m, up 8.4 per cent.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website