Police have seized a home owned by a Northland woman and former council manager convicted of defrauding a government ministry of more than $700,000.

Joanne Harrison, who lived in Waimate North, near the Bay of Islands, was jailed in 2017 for three years and seven months after pleading guilty to misappropriating $726,836.07 from the Ministry of Transport.

Harrison, who was a general manager at the ministry at the time of the offending, previously held a senior management role at the Far North District Council from June 2007 to October 2008.

However, the council maintains there was no indication of financial inconsistencies as a result of her employment.


As well as the house, police asked the courts for forfeiture of cash, jewellery and a car belonging to Harrison and her husband Patrick Sharp.

Joanne Harrison during sentencing in the Manukau District Court in 2017. Photo / NZME
Joanne Harrison during sentencing in the Manukau District Court in 2017. Photo / NZME

Those orders were granted by the High Court in Wellington this month.

Police believe selling the assets will raise about $620,000, which will go towards recouping the ministry's losses.

The property was forfeited under the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act following a three-year effort by the police Central Asset Recovery Unit.

The head of the unit, Detective Senior Sergeant Brent Murray, said Harrison's offending was ''selfish and driven purely by greed and financial gain''.

During sentencing the Serious Fraud Office said Harrison tried to prevent the seizure of her home by transferring it to Sharp's name in the days after the fraud came to light.

Harrison, who is 52, was later also convicted of benefit fraud.

In that case she had falsified a wage slip to show she was earning $482 a week, so she could claim a domestic purposes benefit, when she was in fact earning $1842 a week as a manager at the Department of Corrections.


That offending, between December 2008 and April 2009, earned her an extra two months in jail.

Harrison was granted parole and deported to the UK at the end of 2018.

Land records show Harrison bought the 1.1ha Waimate North property in early 2008, when she was still working as the Far North District Council's general manager for customer focus and culture. The house is close to one of New Zealand's most historic sites, Te Waimate Mission.

The Transport Ministry fraud took place from 2012-15. Several employees who tried to blow the whistle on Harrison were pushed out of their jobs. The ensuing scandal led to the resignation of Auditor-General Martin Matthews, who headed the Ministry of Transport at the time.