Australia shares ease as gold, iron ore stocks fall; NZ at record high

* Volumes to remain low during holiday week - broker

* Gold stocks snap 3-day winning streak, fall 2.1%

* NZ index hits new peak, set for 5th session of gains

* Restaurant Brands NZ hits record high on KFC store buy

Dec 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped on Monday as weaker iron ore futures put pressure on heavyweight miners, while gold stocks eased on a bout of profit taking.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 17.5 points or 0.3% to 6,789.8 by 0042 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.3% on Friday.

The broader market remained quiet ahead of a two-day break for Christmas starting on Wednesday, said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut.

“Volumes and flow of news will remain thin across the week, ahead of the holidays,” he said.

The gold index fell as much as 2.1%, following a recent run of gains. Gold stocks, seen as a proxy investment for the safe-haven metal, rose 3.5% last week, logging their best weekly gain since late-September.

Top miner Newcrest Mining fell 1.8%, while Evolution Mining dropped 1%.

Shares of Northern Star Resources slipped 2.9%. The miner said it was aware of proceedings filed it in relation to a dispute over a joint venture agreement. It said the proceedings were not material and would be defended.

Elsewhere, big iron ore miners eased after a near 1% fall in Chinese iron ore futures on Friday.

The biggest stock on the Australian benchmark, BHP Group , fell 1.3%, while rival Rio Tinto, also fell by the same margin.

Australia’s No. 3 iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group shed 1%.

Outside the main index, rare earths developer Arafura Resources rose nearly 8.1% after it said it struck a preliminary deal with a U.S. company for the latter to process its rare earths product.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5% or 58.19 points to 11,540.48, hitting a record high. The index was poised to log a five-day winning streak.

New Zealand-listed shares of Restaurant Brands New Zealand rose 1.9% to hit a record high after the food retailer said it would buy 70 stores of KFC U.S. franchisee in Southern California.

A 0.9% gain by electricity retailer Meridian Energy and 0.7% climb by medical device maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp also boosted the benchmark. (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)