The country's most exclusive hunting and fishing lodge - and one of the world's top properties - has been sold for a price thought to be about $35 million.

The 7000ha Poronui Station near Lake Taupo originally had an asking price of $62 million in September 2004.

It has been bought for a little more than half that by US company Gulf States Paper Corporation, although the deal is subject to Overseas Investment Office approval.

The lodge has been owned by American banker and avid fisherman Mark Blake and his family since 1998, and was listed by US magazine Forbes as one of the top 20 international properties for sale.

But the price was dropped in September last year when there were no signs of a sale.

Andrew Johnson, business manager for Blake Family Holdings, said the price drop was partly influenced by the strengthening New Zealand dollar.

However industry watchers in Auckland said the drop was because the original asking price had been "ludicrous".

The new owner is Westervelt (NZ), a subsidiary of Westervelt Realty which is part of the family-owned Gulf States Paper Corporation.

The company was founded in 1884 and has grown into one of the largest privately held forest products companies in the United States.

It controls about 180,000ha of woodlands in Mississippi and Alabama.

Poronui Station will join the Westervelt Sporting Lodge Network, which owns lodges and operations in the US, Canada and Argentina.

The new owners can enjoy several ranches and a lodge for up to 14 people.

Included are a gym, health club, billiard room and an underground cellar containing 10,000 bottles of wine.

There is also an Olympic-standard clay target shooting range, world-class fly fishing, a private residence, a network of roads and tracks, and a private airstrip. The fishing waters include a spring creek and the Mohaka River, which wraps itself around one boundary.

A spokesman for the company said the purchase would create jobs and increase the number of high value visitors to New Zealand.

Poronui Station was a good fit with the existing business, in terms of recreation, forestry, and hunting.

He said the company was committed to the environment and would further enhance the conservation efforts started by the Blake Family.

Access rules to the area are unlikely to change. There is a "poled route" and car park for the public with no charge.

However, there is no "right to roam" for fishing, special permission is needed to raft the Mohaka River and camping is not allowed.

To stay at Poronui costs up to $1050 a day.

Mr Johnson said the sale was a good outcome for New Zealand.

"It's a fantastic buyer in terms of overseas experience and worldwide operation of hunting lodges," he said.

And while the San Francisco-based Blake family was "very happy" with the sale, it would not be the end of the love affair.

"The Blake family looks forward to returning as guests of the new owners," Mr Johnson said.

The family is maintaining its interests in New Zealand with the Blake family vineyard in Hawkes Bay. Westervelt will lodge a formal application for approval with the Overseas Investment Office.


What you get

Your $35 million will buy you:
* 7000ha, including 2400ha of beech forest.
* Working beef, cattle and deer ranch.
* Exclusive hunting and fishing lodge for up to 14 people with a gym, health club, billiard room and a 10,000-bottle wine cellar.
* Olympic standard level clay-target shooting range.
* Access to 40km of world-class fly fishing on two rivers.
* Five-bedroom, five-bathroom, five-garage private residence with two entertainment areas, library and cigar rooms.
* 160km of private roads and tracks.
* Private airstrip.