The growing cost of hiring builders and buying timber in New Zealand fuelled the fastest growth in consumer prices for 18 months during the fourth quarter.

Housebuilding has surged since interest rate cuts in 2003, with home prices up 21% in November from a year earlier. The cost of buying and building a new house jumped 3.3% in the quarter – the 19th consecutive rise, according to agency Statistics New Zealand.

It said more than 60% of home construction prices grew during the quarter, with survey respondents blaming rising costs in labour and building materials.

About 30,000 housebuilding approvals are estimated to have been issued last year, up from 20,000 in 2002.