Builders in Hawke's Bay are keeping an close eye on the future, after seeing $12 million drop out of the region's home building industry.

Latest figures from Statistics New Zealand show there were just 51 building consents granted for new dwellings in Hawke's Bay in May, down from 74 in the same month last year.

With 23 fewer consents granted, it also meant the combined construction values of those homes fell to $17m - down from $29m in May, 2017.

SS Homes director Jason Sullivan said there had been a drop-off in the numbers of people inquiring about work.

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"It's probably the sections too that are holding it up. We have a lot of jobs waiting on sections titles to come out so, that's probably holding it up.

"It has been really busy for the council, they haven't been able to keep up. I've got a year's work ahead - easy - so next winter might be a different story.

"It was probably bound to happen at some stage."

Fellow builder Phil D'Ath said he was also busy, with work booked up until late next year.

"A lot of the consents for us are either in processing or are yet to be submitted. I feel the industry in Hawke's Bay is healthy at present."

Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wayne Walford added there was a "sense" that the market was levelling off.

"We are receiving less calls from people looking to transfer from Auckland although that could well change with the new double fuel tax.

"Based on others' comments the pricing is tight with shallow margins. One small hiccup can upset cashflow and put pressure on businesses. The house buying market is no longer as hot as it was with people now able to do due diligence rather than having to impulse buy due to the lower number of buyers looking at the same property."

Compared to May last year, the number of new dwelling consents fell from 36 to 18 in Napier and from 34 to 29 in Hastings.

Napier City Council director of city strategy Richard Munneke said while there had been a slow down in consent applications, the numbers were still well up on the "old normal" levels of just two years ago.

"We've had a very busy couple of years in new building consents, and our stats have certainly jumped up from around 8-10 per month.

"We actually had a very busy March and April this year compared with 2017. Often when we are flat out one month or two we're a little quieter the next. However overall, we have noticed a slow down in the housing market in recent months and this relates equally to new dwelling consents."

He pointed out that while subdivision consents were processed as soon as all the relevant information had been received, the council had little control on when sections were released to the public for development.

A spokeswoman for Hastings District Council said the difference for the district was just five houses, which was very small.

"Section titles are released as fast as the processes required allow."