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Patuharakeke locals with Massey University scientists gathered to prepare the four whales that stranded in their rohe for interment and burial. Flensing Experts Thomas Tarawau Rihari (Patu Harakeke) and Dave Milner (Patu Harakeke) explained:
“We’ve started the flensing process of our four tohorā that we've had strand here.”
The flensing process or ‘hauhake tohorā’ is ancient in origin and ensures that the animals are treated with respect while the useful parts of the whales are being removed.
Milner said, “It's a great revival of old customary practise so it's something that we're able to revive,”
“We use the blubber for melting down into oils where it can be used in things like the coating of tāonga where bones will be used for carvings and the oil for rongoā.”
Rihari explained that no parts of the whales eaten during this process as all muscle, skin and organs is buried.
Milner spoke of the procedures that workers must go through including a clear separation of flensing and support workers to ensure tapu practices are adhered to.
Milner explained “We have a working zone so that's a tapu zone so everybody that's working in this zone has to stay in here and do the mahi. Outside the zone, we have our medics and they look after us and hydrate us and provide food and sustain us”.
With the majority of the workers being there for the first time, it was a great opportunity for Rihari and Milner to pass their skills on to the rising generation.