A woman who lived in the country's most expensive state house has been sentenced for benefit fraud at the Auckland District court.
Michelle Tutakeha Hawke was overpaid nearly $82,790 in benefits over a five-year period. Today she was sentenced to nine months' home detention and 150 hours' community work.
The judge said at the time of the fraud Hawke was living with her five children, her partner and his 2 children, and her terminally ill mother who was dying of cancer.
Her partner was earning $900 a week and the couple were paying $90 a week in rent to Housing New Zealand. Her partner had expressed discomfort at her claiming the Domestic Purposes Benefit but she continued to defraud the Ministry of Social Welfare for five years.
The family have now been removed from the house in Orakei and it has been sold to a private buyer. It is currently valued at $1.3 million.
Around 30 family members attended sentencing in support of Hawke, who is part of a prominent Maori family.
Her uncle, Alec Hawke, said: "She's very shameful really. She's carrying a torch that has brought a little bit of hurt to the whanau, not only the Hawke family but Ngati Whatua as well."
The judge said she wouldn't impose a prison sentence because Hawke has dependent children who do not deserve to be punished. Some of Hawke's children were in court and cried at the news.
"There is a lot of relief.
"We will make sure that the next step for Michelle is going to turn her into a member of society that contributes," Alec Hawke said.