Call for whale jaw bone extraction rethink

Angry scenes as iwi removed the jaw of a beached whale on Paraparaumu Beach have prompted a Kapiti district councillor to call for updated management of the extraction of bones and teeth from stranded whales on public beaches.

Councillor K.Gurunathan said media reports of children crying and police and Conservation Department officials forced to hold back an angry crowd last week, as local iwi carried out customary extraction of the dead sperm whale's jawbone, could not be good for race relations.

"The incident exposes the lack of understanding, by some members of the public, about the deeply rooted spiritual and cultural relationship between coastal iwi and whales. It also exposes a lack of appreciation and preparedness by local iwi in managing mainstream sensitivity," Mr Gurunathan said.

Reports of people walking around barefooted and in jandals in the area where the whale was being butchered were also alarming, he said.

A crowd of about 300 watched as Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa and Te Ati Awa iwi members took about three hours to remove the jaw.

The current protocols between iwi, Kapiti Coast District Council and DOC were established following a 1996 whale stranding at Paekakariki.

DOC spokesman Rob Stone said the official iwi representatives who removed the whale jaw last week were wearing gloves, disposable overalls and boots, complying with health and safety procedures for working on a whale, but unfortunately others, barefooted or in jandals, got inside the cordon to the wet area.

"We had police there and Kapiti Coast District Council staff managing the people throughout the process but it was a full-on job. There were people constantly coming across the cordon to the work area," Mr Stone said.

Management of whale extractions included the council putting up cordons and warning signs advising the public to keep out of the cordoned off area and for people carrying out the work to wear protective clothing, head to foot, he said.

Contact Kay Blundell
Kapiti reporter

The Dominion Post