Residential building consents for March 2011 were up marginally at 2.2% but down 28% since April 2010 to the lowest level since the series began in 1982.
RMBF chief executive Warwick Quinn says the construction sector is well into its third year of recession, and the contraction is picked to continue for most of the year.
“This will result in the continuing loss of capability at the very time it needs to be retained, given what New Zealand is facing over the next few years,” Mr Quinn says.
He cites the Canterbury rebuilding work, the housing shortage in Auckland and the leaky home repairs needed as known work streams, and says the economy will also eventually recover to a point where there is a general increase in construction activity.
“It is imperative the construction sector does not contract further as the industry will struggle to cope when the market eventually responds,” Mr Quinn says.
“We hope the latest March figures are an indication that the market is stabilising as we simply cannot afford to lose any more skilled tradespeople at a time when we need them the most.”
Mr Quinn says there is spare capacity in the system at present, and liquidity pressure was building in the Canterbury region as a result of September and February quakes.
Also, depending on the timing of work and where it is situated, there is likely to be a redistribution of skills as tradespeople move around the country to meet demand.
The three regions with the largest decreases from March 2010 were Canterbury, Waikato and Otago. All increases were small in comparison with the largest in Gisborne.