Two rare pygmy killer whales have been euthanised by iwi and the Department of Conservation (DOC) at Rārawa Beach in the Far North.
The final farewell sounded out by local kuia to one of the two whales euthanised today.
DOC's Jamie Werner says, "We made the hard decision under our technical expertise to euthanise the two weakest ones that beached themselves three times in a row. We tried to refloat them, it just wasn't happening."
Local iwi, Te Aupōuri, DOC and numerous volunteers are continuing efforts to refloat the remaining pygmy killer whales that stranded at Ninety Mile Beach on Sunday.
Many volunteers have been part of the rescue.
"I felt like Maui himself...maybe Paikea, the Whale Rider," says Cody Manukau, who is on holiday in the Far North from Auckland and has been a part of the refloating efforts since the whales' initial discovery.
Manukau's brother-in-law, Wi Tamihana Matiu (Te Aupōuri) says, "Just seeing it from the sidelines was a bit scary aye. Seeing it bolt through those breaks."
Up to 50 volunteers worked through the night- an estimated 200 in total today have been part of the operation.
Te Rūnanga Nui o Te Aupōuri spokesperson, Maquita Lia says, "Some people that didn't even work for DOC stayed out here the night. People have only had one, two hours sleep and they'll just rotate shifts."
Representatives of Te Aupōuri say that formal discussions will begin to decide what traditional burial grounds the remains of the pygmy killer whales will be returned to.
Local iwi say that despite the situation, there are lessons that can be learnt.
"I believe there is a lot of learning in this whale stranding for Te Aupōuri, definitely. I want to teach people about this work, not just for foreigners, but for those here at home because when they become stranded here on our beaches we need to be ready," says famed local Te Aupōuri kaumātua, Heta Conrad, who has been integral in iwi collaboration with DOC.
Te Aupōuri and DOC will announce their next steps tomorrow.