A Pak'nSave Tamatea checkout operator stole more than $500 worth of cigarettes from under his employer's nose.

Brendan James Hall, 41, appeared in the Napier District Court before Judge Tony Adeane on a charge of theft by special relationship.

Hall was employed by the supermarket in February 2014.

Throughout the years he became a trusted employee and about 18 months ago was given keys to access the cigarette safe as well as authorising sales for customers.

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Between June and December 2018 the owner began to notice a serious discrepancy in his cigarette and tobacco inventory.

Frequent stock-taking confirmed an ongoing loss and despite interview reviews, the loss of cigarettes remained a mystery.

The offending occurred between October and December 2018 when Pak'nSave customers bought cigarettes at Hall's checkout.

He would take the packets from the safe - only it was one or two more than the customer asked for - scan the customer's cigarettes, but place the remaining packets in his pocket.

He took the cigarettes home at the end of his shift, making no attempt to pay for them.

Hall told police he stole 25 packets of cigarettes valued at $584.50 in total.

He also told the police he wasn't the only one stealing cigarettes and that his actions had cost him his job, but offered no further explanation for the theft.

Judge Adeane said Hall had "succumbed to temptation" and had ruined his reputation as a result.

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Defence counsel Nicola Graham said Hall had paid full reparation for the loss of cigarettes and had now found new employment working 30 hours a week.

Judge Adeane said because of this, Hall would be received a "modest sentence" of community work, serving 40 hours in total.

A spokesman for the supermarket said he was disappointed that a staff member had resorted to theft.

"We're sad something like this has happened but pleased that it's now been resolved.

"We do not tolerate theft of any kind and will follow through. If people are struggling they really need to put their hand up and ask for help."