New Zealand residential building activity rose for the first time in three quarters in the final three months of 2014, led by earthquake-related rebuilding work in Canterbury.

The value of residential building work put in place rose 4.3 per cent to $1.4 billion, seasonally adjusted, in the fourth quarter, and was up 2.2 per cent from the same period a year earlier, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Non-residential work fell five per cent to $996 million and was down 0.7 per cent from a year earlier.

On an unadjusted basis, the value of all building work climbed 23 per cent in calendar 2014 to $15.3b, rounding out the third straight year of gains, with Auckland and Canterbury alone accounting for $9.7b, or nearly two third of the national total.

The gain in residential activity in the fourth quarter may have partly reflected a rebound after a quiet spell for the housing market in the third quarter, around September’s general election, said Westpac economists.

“The recent soft outturns for quarterly construction growth are by no means a sign that the trend is slowing,” said Westpac economist Michael Gordon.

“The level of building work jumped by a near-record 14 per cent in the March quarter last year and has effectively maintained that level since.”