The discovery that a former Wairarapa Building Society (WBS) staff member had been misappropriating money has been described as disappointing and a serious breach of trust.

Talking to the Times-Age in the wake of sending out an explanatory letter to all members, WBS chief executive Kim McCabe said the loss of the money affected only a few members and "no funds were removed from members' accounts".

The total amount stolen had been small, but WBS would not be releasing how much was taken on the advice of its legal team.

They would also not be naming the woman involved.

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"It was a minimal amount but at the end of the day it was a breach of trust and we view it as being very serious," Mr McCabe said.

The board was planning to pursue recovery of the money taken even though the cost of doing so "is probably more than it is worth - but it is a matter of principle".

Mr McCabe said whether police would be involved was a decision the board was yet to make, and it would depend to some extent on how successful negotiations to retrieve the money were.

He said WBS had been up front and honest by alerting all members to the problem.

"We are different in that we are not a bank but a co-operative owned by the members, who have a right to know."

WBS had become aware of the misappropriation in early April after the woman had already left the staff.

"We spent three months doing an analytical review as we wanted it to be completely thorough and then we got auditors in to do an independent review on what we had found."

Mr McCabe said the matter had been discussed by the board but any decision to involve police was likely to be made at the next board meeting in August.

In his letter to members Mr McCabe said they were being informed as "these issues normally generate speculation in the community and exaggeration is inevitable".

WBS has been in existence as a locally owned co-operative for 143 years.

Mr McCabe said the small staff were deeply saddened to have been let down "by one of our own".