By ANNE GIBSON



Five Australian institutions are looking for at least $500 million of prime retail property in New Zealand, says a broker who has just sold more than $100 million of such property.



John Goddard, of Colliers Jardine in Auckland, said he had represented giant Australian ING Retail Property Fund on two big deals worth $116.15 million.



They involved Dunedin's largest shopping mall and three Dress Smart factory outlet stores.

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But this was just the beginning, Goddard said.



He was trying to find other mall and retail centre owners willing to sell their properties to Australian investors keen on New Zealand yields and unconcerned about the foreign exchange risk.



Deals Goddard has been involved in are:



* Arthur Barnett's $52,650,000 sale last week of Dunedin's main shopping centre, The Meridian on George St, to Australia's ING Retail Property Fund.



* AMP Capital's $63.5 million sale of its three Dress Smart stores in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, also to ING, in March.



* Denis Jen's $26 million-plus sale of the Hunters Corner shopping centre at Papatoetoe to a Sydney investor in December. Jen also owns half of Newmarket's Two Double Seven shopping mall, which Westfield paid $96 million to buy into last year;



* Auckland investor John Boscowan's January sale of The Plaza, a shopping centre in Hastings with a K-Mart and about eight shops, to Wellington property investor St Laurence Group for a price understood to be about $16 million.



* Tower Corporation's sale of half the Johnsonville mall in November last year to a South Island investor. Westfield owns the other half.



* Retail Holdings' $26 million-plus sale of the Two Double Five mall at 255 Broadway in Newmarket to Wellington's St Laurence Group.



"With global instability and problems with the share market, there has been a resurgence of interest in property, of which retail is the hottest sector," Goddard said.



Ian Muir, general manager of ING Retail Property Fund Australia, said the purchase of Dunedin's Meridian Centre took the fund's assets to about A$763 million.



The fund now has interests in 16 shopping centres - four in Western Australia, eight in eastern Australia and the Dunedin mall and the three Dress Smart outlets in New Zealand.



ING Retail is a closed-end fund. Its institutional investors include the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation.