The number of consents to build new houses and apartments has fallen, snapping three months of gains.
Official figures show permits fell a seasonally adjusted 8.2 percent in January, and if apartments were stripped out, consents for houses fell 5.6 percent.
Statistics New Zealand said the actual number of new dwellings stood at 1695 last month, down just eight from the same month a year ago.
The agency' s business indicators senior manager Neil Kelly said increases in nine regions were offset by a large decrease in Canterbury.
"While January is usually a quiet month for building consents, Canterbury had the lowest January number in five years".
The biggest growth was in Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Northland, while Auckland, which accounted for 30 percent of the total, edged up.
ASB Bank senior economist Jane Turner said while consents were soft, she was unconcerned.
"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 and this result does change our view of gradual growth in Auckland residential construction activity."
But ANZ senior economist Philip Borkin said a 0.5 percent decline in the trend does send a warning.
"A softening is evident in Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury. If it persists, the former will be particularly worrying for policymakers hoping for a decent lift in Auckland housing supply to help arrest financial stability risks of high house prices."
Mr Borkin said he expected consents to remain solid over the first half of this year.
But the recent tightening in local financial conditions, along with the fragile global backdrop, may act as a brake on growth, Mr Borkin said.