Building consents have dropped sharply as the Christchurch rebuild nears the end and apartment developers downed tools and headed away for a holiday.

The somewhat unexpected building consent data for January from Statistics NZ showed seasonally adjusted consents across all dwellings fell 8.2 per cent to 2245 in January from December, while housing consents sank 5.6 per cent to 1646 - the steepest decline since August 2014.

Less residential work is being planned in Canterbury as the earthquake rebuild nears completion and fewer Auckland apartments were applied for during the holiday season.

The new data was a big turnaround because consents had rocketed to an 11-month high in December, with 27,132 new dwellings getting sign-off throughout all of last year. That was the highest annual total since 2004.

Jane Turner, ASB senior economist, encouraged perspective on the latest data.

"Given the usual volatility in building consents, the weaker number is not concerning. The softer results appear to be centred in Auckland, with a sharp decline in apartment consents. Weaker apartment consents, particularly at the start of the year, are not too surprising," Turner said.

On an annual basis, new housing consents were up 5.7 per cent to 19,183, with all dwellings up 9.5 per cent to 27,124.

Source: Scoop