Construction helps lift New Zealand's economic growth to 3.8 per cent, fastest clip in 6 years

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Building work in quake-damaged Christchurch helped drive New Zealand’s economy to its fastest rate of growth in more than six years, according to figures released Thursday.

Government agency Statistics New Zealand said the economy grew 3.8 per cent in the first quarter from the same quarter a year ago.

That’s stronger growth than in most developed nations, including Australia, the U.S. and Europe, which has prompted the country’s central bank to hike interest rates on three occasions this year to 3.25 per cent.

New Zealand’s Reserve Bank predicts economic growth will moderate next year. The 3.8 per cent expansion in gross domestic product is the strongest since the third quarter of 2007.

Compared to the previous quarter, GDP gained 1 per cent.

Construction increased 12.5 per cent during the quarter — the fastest pace in 14 years — with home building up 31 per cent in Christchurch and 12 per cent elsewhere in the country.

Hundreds of buildings in Christchurch were destroyed in a 2011 earthquake.

Exports rose 3.1 per cent and mining grew 6.3 per cent, while household spending remained flat.

The figures were welcomed by New Zealand’s ruling National Party, which is seeking a third term in office when general elections are held in September.