Orcas beach near Tuatapere

Ngai Tahu: 'Saying farewell'

AMANDA PARKINSON AND HANNAH MCLEOD
Last updated 23:26 11/02/2014
Fairfax NZ

Local iwi Ngai Tahu bless orcas that beached and died in Southland.

Whale
TRACY THOMAS/Supplied
One of the orcas found beached near Tuatapere. It was removed from the beach under DOC instruction.

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LATEST: Ngai Tahu representatitives today have blessed the stranded orcas near Tuatapere.

Ngai Tahu spokesman Dean Whaanga said they wished to give thanks to the orcas.

''...like our human friends that have passed on, (give) a blessing to them and wish them well on their last journey, their final farewell,'' Mr Whaanga said.

Department of Conservation staff went to the beach near Tuatapere today to investigate the death of nine orcas. 

The whales were confirmed dead at 7.30pm last night after stranding themselves earlier in the day.

High Country Helicopters pilot Dale Green said he did not believe DOC was going to remove any more of the orca today.

One was removed last night under DOC instruction for investigation, he said.

DOC staff could not be reached to comment at this stage, but Orca Research Trust founder Ingrid Visser said the stranding was tragic.

"The last time we had a stranding this big in New Zealand was in the 80s at Chatham Island," she said.

Dr Visser said this was the third largest in New Zealand's history and possibly the one of the 10 largest internationally.

"There are fewer than 200 orca living off New Zealand's coast, so this represents a large portion of that."

Dr Visser said she was trying to fly to Invercargill today to investigate the situation.

Resident Tracy Thomas was alerted to the situation last night and said she went to take photos of the beached orcas. 

The orcas were beached at Trackburn, west from Bluecliffs Beach near Tuatapere, Ms Thomas said.

"There were nine of them and they were all dead, which is quite sad," she said. 

She believed they were orcas because of their black and white colour.

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