Buyer of 500 tenanted homes in 1999 wants a further 1500 now the Nats looking to sell.

A liquor company that bought about 500 state houses under the last National Government wants to buy a further 1500 now that state houses are up for sale again.

Masterton-based Trust House bought all 541 state houses in the Wairarapa and Tararua districts, keeping on their tenants, for $10.5 million in a 1999 deal that current chief executive Allan Pollard describes as a discount of "probably 50 per cent" off market value.

He says the company now wants to buy 1500 more state houses "anywhere in the lower North Island". It is looking "from New Plymouth and Hastings down to Wellington".

The company runs liquor outlets in Hastings, Feilding, Pahiatua, Masterton, Greytown, Martinborough, Featherston, Upper Hutt and Wellington. Its $45 million revenue last year made it the country's third-biggest liquor trust after trusts in West Auckland and Invercargill.

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Its March 1999 state-houses buy, just months before Prime Minister Jenny Shipley's National Government lost power, is described in the company's official history as having "more than an element of politics". MPs wanted a quick sale before the election.

Mr Pollard said the low price meant the company was able to keep rents between 1 per cent and 15 per cent below market rates and still keep up maintenance work.

On Friday, Prime Minister John Key said the Cabinet would consider a paper before Christmas on "what sort of timeframe we are talking about, what number of houses we want to achieve, the locations for them, and the commitments that the community housing providers would have to make".

Buyers are again expected to be required to let existing tenants continue living in any houses they buy.

Trust House

• NZ's third-biggest liquor trust group after trusts in West Auckland and Invercargill.
• Runs 20 liquor outlets for Masterton, Flaxmere and Rimutaka trusts.
• Bought all the state houses in Wairarapa and Tararua in 1999.
• Wants to buy 1500 more state houses across lower North Island.