New Zealand Concrete Production Surges Amid Earthquake Rebuild

New Zealand concrete production surged 9.7 percent last year as rebuilding in the earthquake-damaged city of Christchurch accelerated.

Production jumped to 3.1 million cubic meters, the highest since 2008, Statistics New Zealand data showed today. Output at plants in Christchurch soared 28 percent from 2012 and production in Auckland rose 16 percent.

Increased construction, led by rebuilding of homes, office buildings and infrastructure in Christchurch, is underpinning New Zealand’s economic expansion, prompting central bank Governor Graeme Wheeler to signal he will start raising interest rates as soon as next month. Christchurch, whose city center was largely destroyed by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, made up about 20 percent of national concrete production, up from 11 percent in 2009, today’s data showed.

“They are strong figures, and they certainly support the growth in construction,” said Craig Ebert, senior economist at Bank of New Zealand Ltd. in Wellington.

Still, concrete production growth slowed in the fourth quarter, suggesting the economic impulse from construction will become harder to sustain, he said. “There’s a sense that things weren’t quite as rapid in the fourth quarter” as they were in the third in terms of economic growth, Ebert said.

The economy expanded 1.4 percent in the three months through September. Data for the fourth quarter are due March 20.