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NZ building consents rise 1.9 percent in February, propped up by retirement village units

Thursday 28th March 2013

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New Zealand building consents rose 1.9 percent in February as an increased intentions to build retirement village units made up for a fall in new housing permits.

The number of consents rose to a seasonally adjusted 1,592 from 1,563 in January, according to Statistics New Zealand. Stripping out new apartment permits, which are typically lumpy from month to month, consents fell 3.6 percent to 1,451.

Of the 142 apartment consents issued last month, 98 were for retirement village units. That comes as village operators, including Ryman Healthcare and Summerset Group, accelerate their new developments in anticipation of the ageing baby boomer generation which is starting to enter retirement age.

"Housing consents maintained their upward trend in February, consistent with our view that construction will boost economic growth over the next two years, largely but not totally due to post-quake building needs," Westpac Banking economist Michael Gordon said in a note. "Total residential building consents rose 1.9 percent in February, broadly in line with our expectation, and led by a rebound in apartment consents from sub-par to around average levels."

Construction is seen by economists as the central point of growth for New Zealand's economy in the coming years, with a $30 billion-plus programme to rebuild Christchurch and a housing market in Auckland that is heating up.

Today's figures showed a slowing down in the pace of earthquake-related consents in Canterbury, with $35 million of new work permitted, down from $28 million in January. Of that, $26 million was for 55 residential dwellings, and $9 million for non-residential work. Since the Sept. 10, 20010 quake, almost 3,900 consents worth $888 million have been issued.

"There was also a drop in consents in the Canterbury region, although a closer look shows that new building is now clearly gravitating towards Christchurch City and away from the outer regions," Gordon said.

The value of non-residential building consents sank 25 percent to $285 million in February from the same month a year earlier, after slipping 1.4 percent in January.

Total consents were unchanged at $867 million in February from a year earlier.

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