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A private island may be the ultimate rich man's status symbol but it seems that $40 million-plus Pakatoa - just half an hour from downtown Auckland - may be a little too rich for Kiwi blood.

Despite commanding stunning water views and having its own jetty, airstrip and golf course, the 24ha ex-resort island in the Hauraki Gulf has languished on the market for two years, and been listed on and off before that in the late 90s.

But its longtime owner, meat industry magnate John Ramsey, seems to be in no hurry to get it off his hands - even putting the price up by a couple of million dollars just months ago.

Ramsey bought the island in 1994 after the government stopped its sale to German conman Ralf Simon.

Real estate agent Sherryn El-Bakery, of Bayleys Waiheke, who has been marketing Pakatoa for the past two years, describes the property as "the jewel in the crown of the Hauraki Gulf".

She should know. El-Bakery, a member of Bayleys' exclusive $100-million (sales) club, has sold other spectacular properties before but, as she attests, "there's nothing like having your own island where you are completely surrounded by your own moat!

"Owning [an] island is top of the list for wealthy people," she says. "It's the pinnacle of their achievement. It is so special, and so rare."

Pakatoa - whose name means to flow with the tide - has a long and colourful history.

Over the years it has served as a rehab centre for turn-of-the-century female alcoholics, been a rich man's private hideaway, a low-rise hotel complex, a corporate function centre, hosted weekend-long dance parties, and in the 90s been the subject of two separate scams by international con artists to buy it.

Despite the hefty price tag, the island should, in theory, prove a magnet for big-time buyers because of several unique selling points, not least its proximity to Auckland.

Situated just 3km from the eastern side of Waiheke Island and some 45km from Auckland (a half-hour ferry trip away), Pakatoa has sweeping views back to Waiheke and across to the Coromandel Peninsula. It is also on a single title, which could make it appealing to wealthy individuals or corporations seeking to makeover the rundown resort or turn it into a private retreat.

"If somebody did buy it and develop it into a holiday resort in these times of terrorism and worry about flying it would be very simple for people to just hop on a ferry and go somewhere special," says El-Bakery. "It could be a very successful venture."

While the property enjoys existing use rights, no subdivision of the land is available, although each of the 50-plus units that made up the former hotel could possibly be unit titled.

Ramsey bought Pakatoa for $4.25 million in 1994. He initially lived there with his family and continued to run the hotel, which had been built in the 1960s by cinema chain mogul Sir Robert Kerridge. When the hotel closed in 2000, the Ramseys moved back to the mainland.

A resident caretaker now maintains the property.