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New Zealand grows at fastest rate in six years on Christchurch restoration

WELLINGTON, New Zealand--Building work in quake-damaged Christchurch helped drive New Zealand's economy to its fastest rate of growth in more than six years, according to figures released Thursday.

Government agency Statistics New Zealand said the economy grew 3.8 percent in the first quarter from the same quarter a year ago.

That's stronger growth than in most developed nations, including Australia, the U.S. and Europe, which has prompted the country's central bank to hike interest rates on three occasions this year to 3.25 percent.

New Zealand's Reserve Bank predicts economic growth will moderate next year. The 3.8 percent expansion in gross domestic product is the strongest since the third quarter of 2007.

Compared to the previous quarter, GDP gained 1 percent.

Construction increased 12.5 percent during the quarter — the fastest pace in 14 years — with home building up 31 percent in Christchurch and 12 percent elsewhere in the country.

Hundreds of buildings in Christchurch were destroyed in a 2011 earthquake.

Exports rose 3.1 percent and mining grew 6.3 percent, while household spending remained flat.

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