A Rotorua woman whose benefit was overpaid more than $150,000 over eight and a half years has been sentenced to community work and home detention.

Rosemary Skipworth, 60, appeared in the Rotorua District Court yesterday before Judge Greg Hollister-Jones who sentenced her to eight months' home detention and 200 hours' community work.

Skipworth was sentenced on one charge of obtaining by deception between October 2009 and March 2018, as well as 14 charges of dishonestly using a document to obtain a pecuniary advantage over the same period.

In eight and a half years Skipworth was overpaid $150,890 and developed a problem with gambling. She applied for financial help 14 times in that period.


Skipworth had applied for a domestic purposes benefit in 2001 as a result of a separation from her husband. The couple co-owned a house which was mortgaged to the value of $77,000 and refinanced in 2004.

The mortgage was paid for using a joint account which Skipworth failed to disclose, Judge Hollister-Jones said.

"You had the benefit of your husband's income but continued to receive assistance without disclosing the assistance from him.

"You said the outgoings on the property were your entire responsibility."

Skipworth's lawyer Tony Rickard-Sims told the judge Skipworth had gone to budget counselling and stopped gambling since the charges were laid.

He said the Ministry of Social Development wasn't seeking a court repayment order as it would use ministry methods to recover the costs.

In cases where clients have been overpaid, the ministry recovers debt in regular repayments by making deductions from their benefit payments at a rate which would not cause undue hardship.

Judge Hollister-Jones said the community work portion of the sentence would ensure Skipworth gave back to the community.

"This was stealing from taxpayers essentially so it's necessary for you to put something back into the community."