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Trust sees a brighter time ahead

 

Masterton Trust Lands Trust. PHOTO/FILE.

Mary Argue
[email protected]

Masterton Trust Lands Trust is looking at a significantly brighter future, emerging from a difficult few years marred by litigation and lockdowns.

Masterton Trust Lands Trust [MTLT] reported positive financial results at its annual general meeting yesterday, including a property portfolio of 90 tenants valued at $86 million and a grants budget of $1.1m, set to increase to $1.5m next year.

However, trust chair Leanne Southey said the shadow of earthquake strengthening litigation in recent years had been challenging and upsetting for trustees.

The trust entered litigation with tenants in earthquake-prone buildings in 2017, which forced grants to be cut back, Southey said.

“With the litigation over our heads, we were focused on managing costs and structural upgrades.”

She said it was a relief to be through the settlements, with the final mediation wrapping in May this year.

The trust said in its 2022 financial report that the High Court claims brought by the trust in relation to six buildings had been settled between the parties.

“The settlements remain confidential.”

The trust, however, posted a significant increase in miscellaneous revenue for the previous financial year at $2.95m, up from $106,086 in the year 2020-21.

“With the litigation behind us, it gives us more certainty around development and grants,” Southey said.

“We’re looking at a couple of million in grants in the next couple of years.”

Southey said although covid-related disruptions were still present, it was satisfying to see objectives coming to fruition at the end of the third year of a six-year strategy.

“Over time, we’re aiming to reduce the risks associated with our commercial properties and grow the value of grants for the benefit of Masterton,” she said.

She said the Whakaoriori Wellbeing Project, which aimed to foster social competence in rangatahi [youth], was one such project that could see more money committed.

The project was allocated $600,000 over three years and, in its second year, had expanded to 12 schools.

“Assuming that things go well, then the trustees would look at extending it.”

General manager Andrew Croskery said the increased valuation in the trust’s property portfolio could be attributed to the strong property market and proactive maintenance and rent reviews.

He said the trust had enjoyed close to 100 per cent occupancy and had recently signed a lease with NZ Saftey Blackwoods in what was previously Mico Plumbing.

He said the former Supercheap Auto building, untenanted since May 2021, was a “significant vacancy” for the trust and required substantial strengthening work.

However, he said the current shortage of building supplies and labour was delaying construction on the site.

Croskery said the trust was in a “really good place” with debt down at 21.1 per cent and the focus now on increasing grants and development.

He said it was committed to a conservative fiscal approach involving growing equity with inflation and population change and ensuring there was enough of a buffer should the economic winds change.

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