The number of new home approvals rose in January 2012 compared to the year earlier, with apartments accounting for almost half of the increase.
Statistics New Zealand figures revealed consents were issued for 1,098 new houses (including apartments), up 27%.
Consents were issued for 900 new homes (excluding apartments), up 16% and 198 new apartments (including 174 retirement units), up from 90.
"There was a large increase in approvals for apartments in January 2012," said business statistics manager Blair Cardno.
"In fact, it was the highest monthly number of apartment units consented in just over a year. Most were for retirement units in Canterbury, some of which had been delayed because of earthquakes."
After removing seasonal fluctuations new housing approvals rose 8.3% in January 2012 compared with December 2011. Excluding apartments, there was a smaller increase of 3.7%.
Statistics NZ said trend numbers for new housing approvals had been increasing since March 2011, but that the rate of increase had eased in recent months.
"Over the second half of 2011 it appears that building demand has lost some momentum," said ASB economist Jane Turner.
"We still expect to see a gradual increase in underlying building demand over the coming year, particularly from Auckland given the increasingly tight housing market."
Turner said she expected the construction outlook to remain subdued in the near term, with low levels of housing continuing to put pressure on housing supply resulting in house price rises, especially in Auckland and Canterbury.