Home-building consents perked up in June, rising 3.5 per cent from May, on a seasonally adjusted basis, led by a bounce in Canterbury.
Consents have moved up and down month by month this year, but are on an improving trend. Construction is expected to be a key pillar of economic growth in the next couple of years.
ASB economists said the June consents suggested the earthquake rebuild in Canterbury was now "firmly on track" after a weaker patch earlier in the year.
However, the national trend remains well below levels during the house building boom a decade ago.
Statistics NZ said 1950 new dwellings were consented in June, including 197 apartments. That included 61 retirement village units.
Excluding apartments, consents were up 2.9 per cent.
The rise in June was a rebound from the 4.4 per cent fall in May, including apartments. Excluding apartments, consents rose almost 5 per cent in May, reversing a similar fall in April.
Consents have now more than recovered from their April dip, which was thought to relate to the timing of holidays.
Westpac economists said it was not surprising that the rise in consents was driven by the Auckland and Canterbury regions, with both reaching new cycle highs.
The regions where the most consents were issued in June were Canterbury with 623 and Auckland with 553.
There was also a $70 million approval for a new hospital in Christchurch.
ASB economists said the surge in home-building consents in Canterbury was estimated to be up more than 22 per cent on May on a seasonally adjusted basis.
"This increase follows some signs of softening over April and May and now suggests that house-building demand in Canterbury is bouncing back," ASB said.
Auckland consents were up about 2 per cent in the month, ASB said.
But for the June year Auckland housing consents were about 6800, still below the 9000 that ASB estimated were needed to keep up with population growth in the next couple of years.
In the Wellington region, 118 house building consents were issued in June, roughly in line with levels earlier in the year. Wellington consents were worth $32m in June, close to levels in five of the past six months.
Nationally, almost $1.3 billion of building work was consented in June, with $772m of residential work and $490m of non-residential work.
Statistics NZ said the trend for new dwellings consented was at its highest level since August 2007.
"The trend for new dwellings has doubled since March 2011, but is still 26 per cent below the series peak in January 2004," Statistics NZ business indicators manager Neil Kelly said.
Excluding the volatile apartment sector, the trend for home-building consents has been inching up this year, at a much slower pace than last year.
For the June year, consents were issued for 20,431 homes, excluding apartments, up from about 17,000 in the previous June year.
The house-building slump hit a trough in 2009, when just more than 12,000 homes were built.