Housing consents fell 6.7% in February after an 8.1% rise the month before, but Statistics New Zealand said the overall consents trend remains upward.
The trend for the number of new houses, including apartments, has risen 23% since April 2011, the lowest point in its 30-year history.
"February's decrease partly offsets the January increase, which was due to the relatively large number of apartments approved in January," said industry and labour statistics manager Blair Cardno.
"As a result, February's level is similar to December's."
Statistics NZ figures revealed that in February consents were issued for 1,204 new homes, including apartments, (up 24% on February 2011), 1,142 new houses, excluding apartments (up 29%) and 62 new apartments, all of which were retirement village units, down from 89 apartments.
ASB economist Christine Leung said that the February figures were weak, and excluding the volatile apartments measure, consent issuance rose just 1.2%.
"This suggests residential building activity will be fairly subdued over the coming months," she said.
However, Leung said she expects to see stronger housing demand created by improving market activity flow through to increased residential building activity over 2012.
She also predicted the low levels of housing construction over the first half of the year would create upward pressure on house prices, particularly in Auckland and Canterbury.