WELLINGTON, March 6 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand government came under renewed fire Monday over its handling of the country's housing crisis after official figures showed new home building consents were tailing off.
Building consents for new homes appeared to have eased or fallen across most of the country, the Statistics New Zealand agency said.
Nationally, the trend for the number of new homes consented has fallen 15 percent in the five months to January, after reaching a 12-year high in August 2016.
Most regions appeared to have contributed to the decrease, although Canterbury, which was still rebuilding after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, was the most significant contributor, followed by Auckland, home to a third of the population and the center of the housing crisis.
"However, building consents are quite volatile at a regional level," business indicators senior manager Neil Kelly said in a statement.
"Canterbury is showing a sustained decrease from its post-quake peak, whereas Auckland is still close to a 12-year high and is now consenting over 10,000 homes a year."
Building consents were an indicator of future building activity, and almost all consented work was eventually completed.
Although the trend was decreasing, the number of new homes consented rose 0.8 percent in January from the previous month, but this followed falls of 7.9 percent in December and 8.9 percent in November 2016.
A total of 1,752 new homes were consented in January, up 3.4 percent from January 2016.
In the year ended January, 30,123 new homes were consented, up 11 percent year on year.
Opposition lawmakers said the figures showed the government had failed to boost construction.
"The data also shows the current level of consents in Auckland is not enough to keep up with the city's rapidly growing population," housing spokesperson for the main opposition Labour Party, Phil Twyford, said in a statement.
Official figures last week show the value of building activity rose 3.5 percent in the December 2016 quarter, with most of the rise in Auckland.
Opposition legislators said 2,500 houses were built in Auckland in the last quarter, when around 4,000 are needed to keep up with population growth.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has repeatedly stated that surging house prices in Auckland pose a risk to the country's financial stability.