Whale butchering horrifies onlookers

'It is a way the whale can live on'

Last updated 05:00 18/01/2013
 Owen Mapp with a bishop’s pastoral staff, which he carved from a whale’s jaw bone
ROSS GIBLIN/Dominion Post
HONOURING THE WHALE: Owen Mapp with a bishop’s pastoral staff, which he carved from a whale’s jaw bone.

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Police and Department of Conservation staff had to hold back angry and upset onlookers at a Kapiti beach, after those removing a whale's jaw were left "up to their knees" in blood.

Grief and anger erupted among the 300 onlookers as Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa and Te Ati Awa iwi members took three hours on Wednesday evening to remove the jaw of the 15-metre male sperm whale.

It had washed up on Paraparaumu Beach that morning.

Yesterday, DOC staff transported the body to Queen Elizabeth Park and buried it.

Local whale-bone carver Owen Mapp said children were in tears and some of the crowd became angry about the whale being butchered.

One man became aggressive, telling officials they had no right to carve up iwi ancestors. He was restrained from coming closer.

"Many people felt the whale should have been buried complete," Mr Mapp said.

"There was a lot of blood and guts. Some people were horrified. Some New Zealanders have lost the connection between the meat they buy packaged in the supermarket and where the meat they eat comes from."

Contradictory messages added to the angst of some in the crowd.

"There was a lot of talk by officials about the danger of getting too close to a rotting whale, the threat of disease. At the same time people butchering the whale were up to their knees in bloody water and tissue.

"Some officials were walking around in jandals and bare feet instead of boots."

Creating cultural objects or carved artifacts enabled contemporary society to honour the spirit of the whale, he said. "It is a way the whale can live on."

DOC area manager Rob Stone said some were upset at seeing the jaw removed but "others were annoyed they could not get closer to see the job being done".

DOC protocol allowed iwi first use of the whale.

Ngati Toa member Nelson Solomon said people complaining about the gory work did not have to watch.

"We tried to put up barricades to stop the public going in.

"DOC officials tried their best to stop them but they kept coming in with their cameras and going ‘ahhh'.

"We are sorry if people were offended but we thought we did what was best in our interests."

Iwi had complied with DOC regulations, he said.

"We did a prayer when we got to the beach, a prayer when we did our stuff, buried it in a beautiful place, had a lovely funeral and said a sad farewell."

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- The Dominion Post

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