Decline in building consents

Big fall in new building consents issued in Canterbury drags down national consent numbers.

Monday, February 29th 2016, 12:00AM

by Miriam Bell

The latest Statistics New Zealand consent data shows that Canterbury consented 289 new dwellings in January 2016.

This was a drop of 38% as compared to January 2015.

Business indicators senior manager Neil Kelly said that, while January is usually a quiet month for building consents, Canterbury had the lowest January number in five years.

Canterbury’s trend for new dwellings peaked in September 2014, following three-and-a-half years of sustained growth.

Since then, the trend level has by fallen 21%.

Further, January 2016 saw the lowest monthly value of building consents identified as earthquake-related since October 2011.

Nationally, there were 1,695 new dwellings consented in January 2016 – which was down by just 8 on January 2015.

However, once seasonally adjusted, there was a fall of 8.2% and the national trend eased by 0.5%.

Kelly said there were increases in nine of the 16 regions in January 2016, as compared to January 2015, but they were offset by the large decrease in Canterbury.

Providing more evidence of the Auckland “halo effect”, the three regions with the largest year-on-year increases in consents were all near Auckland.

They were Waikato which was up by 45%, the Bay of Plenty which was up by 40%, and Northland which was up by 67%.

In Auckland itself, there were 506 new consents issued in January 2016, which was up on the 482 issued in January 2015.

However, the annual consent total came in at 9,275 – which remains significantly lower than the 12-13,000 of new dwellings it is estimated Auckland needs each year to match population growth.

Westpac industry economist David Norman said the overall decline in consent numbers was not unexpected.

It followed three consecutive months of strong growth in consent numbers led by Auckland and a December figure that was surprisingly strong in Canterbury, given the rebuild is winding down, he said.

“A correction in Canterbury was expected, but the scale of the fall was surprising. Residential consents fell from around 500 in December to just 350 in seasonally adjusted terms.”

Norman said the change in month-on-month residential consents was mostly due to the usual suspect – multi-unit (apartment and terraced houses) consents.

These can swing total consent figures sharply due to their size, he said.

“In Auckland, our biggest multi-unit market, seasonally adjusted consents fell 23% in the month, but a decline in stand-alone houses consented accounted for just 15% of this decline.”

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