Wellington City Council staff were not required to remove a large, unidentified lump of greasy substance from a south coast beach today - locals did it for them.
The lump apparently washed up at Breaker Bay during the weekend and once word got out that it could be valuable ambergris - an excretion from whales that is used to make perfume - locals started pillaging it.
Ambergris can sell for thousands of dollars per kilogram and Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said it was like "some sort of bizarre gold rush" on the beach today.
"We went out there this morning and there were people sort of lunging at it with spades and sharp implements trying to chop pieces off so they could make off with it and make their fortunes," he said.
"Whether people are now going to try and pass it off on TradeMe as highly valuable ambergris remains to be seen."
This afternoon there was at least one person trying to sell 'the infamous Wellington cheese' on TradeMe but buyers did not seem tempted - with only $1 bid so far.
However, the lump was cylinder shaped as if it had been manufactured and the general consensus was that it was in fact lard or cooking fat.
Initial suggestions were that it might be a huge lump of cheese which had fallen off a boat, but either way, Mr MacLean said it was foul.
"It's disgusting. I've got a piece of it beside my desk and everyone in the office is pretty much grossed out by it."
He said there was probably no need to get it tested unless issues arose around people attempting to sell it.
The lump was originally about the size of a 44-gallon drum and estimated to weigh hundreds of kilograms.