Hawke's Bay's building industry has seen a 12-month spike in growth well above the national average.
Residential consents in Hawke's Bay increased 43.9 per cent to 254 in the 12 months to March 2020 from 125 in the same quarter last year. Nationally the increase was 9 per cent.
The value of non-residential consents grew to $186 million (21.2 per cent) in the same period – up from $121m in the 10-yearly average - compared with a decline of -0.4 per cent nationally.
The 12-month growth period was despite consents slowing in March due to Covid-19.
Business Hawke's Bay CEO Carolyn Neville said the increase in building consents should act as "a source of optimism".
"The outlook for construction in the form of growth in the number of residential consents and growth in value of non-residential consents, both at 10-year peaks, is extremely encouraging," she said.
"The local construction sector was in a sound position going into lockdown, however there are now other factors in the mix that could influence just how many of these consents move forward, and how quickly they progress.
"But assuming these consents translate into building work, this should help support the local construction industry through the downturn."
SS Homes director Jason Sullivan said work has been constant in recent weeks.
"We are the busiest we have ever been, with current contracts under way and new inquiries," he said.
"We will be hiring more staff over the coming year."
Latitude Homes Hawke's Bay owner Debbie Middleton said she has noticed an increase in work over the past few years.
"It's very busy for jobs out there and there aren't enough workers," she said.
"We have more work than usual and it's hard for us to keep up – there's not enough time in the day for the tradies to get around all the jobs they need to."
Middleton added: "The tradies aren't just working for me either; they work for other companies as well. It's a case of sometimes waiting for them to be available."
The residential consents increase of 43.9 per cent in Hawke's Bay was the third highest growing region in the 12 months to March 2020, behind Southland (54.6 per cent) and Taranaki (44.8 per cent).
Hastings District Council planning and regulatory services manager John O'Shaughnessy said although residential and commercial building consents increased in the district across January and February compared with the year before, March growth slowed considerably.
"In March, commercial consents growth slowed, with a 29 per cent increase on the year prior, and residential consents fell by 13 per cent," he said.
"The slowing of commercial growth and decline in residential consents was a direct result of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions."
O'Shaughnessy said since the move to level 2, consent numbers are rising again.
A Napier City Council spokeswoman said 77 building consents were issued in Napier in March 2020, made up of 64 residential and 13 non-residential, with a total estimated value of $9,963,446.
In comparison, 116 building consents were issued in March 2019, made up of 102 residential and 14 non-residential, with a total estimated value of $20,422,932.
Last month, 81 residential and seven non-residential consents were issued, with a total estimated value of $8,613,304.
Infometrics is forecasting the region's GDP to fall 6.3 per cent in the year to March 2021, compared with an 8 per cent fall nationally.
Employment is expected to decline 8.2 per cent in Hawke's Bay, with the loss of an estimated 7000 jobs, compared with a 9.8 per cent fall nationally.
Neville said the region is better placed than others to weather the expected economic effects of Covid-19.
The impact has been "rapid", with almost every business impacted, according to Neville.
"Many have not traded for more than a month, some are facing closure with loss of markets, others are restructuring or reorganising to survive, social distancing has impacted productivity and trading, and there is huge uncertainty," she said.