New Zealand councils consented 32,996 new dwellings in 2018, up 6.1 per cent on the year before and the highest since mid-2004, Stats NZ said.

The number was driven by an 18 per cent increase in Auckland consents and a 19 per cent lift in Wellington.

In the Auckland region, 12,862 new homes were consented in 2018. This is down slightly from the year ended October 2018 when 13,078 homes were consented, the highest since the early 1970s, Stats NZ said.

There were 2,731 new homes consented in the Wellington region in 2018, just below the record 2,781 set in the year ended June 2018, the highest since regional records began in 1991. There were also 3,742 new homes consented in the Waikato, Stats NZ said.

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Of total consents, townhouses, flats and units were up 33.1 per cent while apartments - defined as buildings with 10 or more dwellings - lifted 9.6 per cent versus 2017. The number of retirement village units fell 6.2 per cent while the number of stand-alone houses was up 0.5 per cent.

Stats NZ also said that home consents issued to central government agencies reached a 40-year high in the year ended December 2018. Central government agencies, including Housing New Zealand, were granted consent for 1,999 new homes in 2018, which is the highest number since the year ended November 1978 when 2,105 were consented. Townhouses, flats, and units accounted for almost half of the new homes consented to central government in 2018. The majority were in Auckland.

For the month of December, a total of 2,382 consents were issued for all types of homes, up 9.8 per cent versus the same month a year earlier but down 24 per cent from November. Of those, the number of consents for townhouses, flats and units was up 36.7 per cent while the number of apartments rose 13.8 per cent.

Monthly consent numbers are volatile. Historically consents for new homes tended to peak mid-year, for summer construction, but the trend to more apartments and the growth of the retirement home sector has increased the variability in the data.

Stats NZ said that, on a seasonally-adjusted basis, the December number rose 5.1 per cent versus November after a 1.9 per cent fall that month.

The annual value of residential building work consented was $14.2 billion, up 5.2 per cent from the December 2017 year. The annual value of non-residential building work consented was $7.1 billion, up 9 per cent. Shops, restaurants and bars were the biggest contributors by value.

- BusinessDesk