Waiata House. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

PAM GRAHAM
pam.graham@age.co.nz

Masterton Trust Lands Trust is signalling it wants to more than double the amount of money it grants to the community by 2025.

The community-owned commercial property investor reported a $5.3 million surplus after a $3.87m increase in the value of its properties and before grants in the year to March 31, 2019, a 147.7 per cent rise on the previous year.

The net operating profit before property revaluations and grants of $1.5m was down 18.8 per cent.

The rental income of $5m was up 0.3 per cent and achieved with 100 per cent occupancy of buildings.

The $783,445 of total grants was up 15.5 per cent on the previous year, which had been down.

Of the total, $479,070 were rent concessions and $288,375 were education grants. There was a civic grant of $16,000 to Masterton District Library to purchase new reading and information resources and enhance literacy and digital services.

Chairwoman Leanne Southey said the trust had developed a six-year strategy that sought to strengthen the long-term viability of the organisation.

“Our ultimate goal is to progressively increase the distribution of grants to the community to double the current level by 2025.

“This would take annual grants to around $2 million, which would significantly increase the range of education, arts and community initiatives we could support each year.”

The trust charges a commercial rent to Aratoi Museum of Art and History of $324,000 per year and then forgives it.

It also does this for ConArt, Te Patukituki o Wairarapa, Harlequin Theatre, Wairarapa REAP, the Young Citizens Club, Masterton Foodbank, Access Radio Wairarapa, Christmas Wonderland, and Wairarapa College Farm.

The trust has been working on repaying debt and aimed to increase the value of its equity to keep pace with inflation and population growth.

In the latest year it sold Waiata House to Masterton District Council after bearing the cost of fixing the building and also sold the Burger King building.

Fixing Waiata House involved 25,000 hours of contractors’ time and 70 tonnes of new concrete, the annual report said.

The property sales supported repayment of $5m of debt and an improvement in debt ratio from 40.2 per cent to 33.3 per cent.

“This approach is designed to ensure the trust’s sustainability in the longer term and significantly improve our level of grant distribution to the Masterton community in the future,” Southey said.

Work was continuing to address the structural design issues in several trust-owned buildings that were identified three years ago as not being up to standard.

“We’ve been working with our tenants to progress the remediation work in a way that minimises the potential disruption to them and their businesses,” Southey said.

The annual report mentioned the new building facades at Resene Colorshop, City Fitness gym and Hell Pizza as projects.

The trust has seven court cases in the High Court and one in the District Court in a bid to recover the costs of remediation of the buildings.

It had spent money on legal advice and engineering reports as part of this litigation, which was expected to take at least another year to resolve.