Iwi mourns dead whale in Mahia

By Te Kāea
  • North Island: East Coast

The sperm whale that stranded and later died at Mahia has been moved.  There were prayers and karanga this morning as onlookers sadly watched the carcass being moved from the north end of the peninsula.  

A blood filled sea and a giant whale carcass in Māhia bringing locals to tears. 

Mahia Māori Committee Chairman Paora Ratapu says, “This is a big job for the local iwi here, Rongomaiwahine.”

Rongomawahine resident Te Ata o Te Rā Rere told Te Kāea, “We will treat this as a tūpapaku on a marae, and he will go from the marae to the urupa.”

The Department of Conversation and Ngāti Rongomaiwahine are working together to bury the sperm whale which died yesterday morning after stranding itself late Friday night.

DOC representative Jamie Quirk says, “The other day he got driven in here when it was a South-Westerly which comes directly into the bay. He got stranded and died of natural causes.”

Mr Rere says, “This is a natural occurrence. The whales would come to this point to travel to the other side of the isthmus. This was the shortest route.”

It's a mammoth task with the 16.1metre whale weighing in at 40 tonnes. That's 40,000 kilograms.

Quirk says the resources are significant to the iwi, “The cultural materials in this animal would be the teeth but also the bones and especially the jawbone.”

Mr Rere shared some historical context, “They were buried here and buried deep enough to stop people from digging up the bones. Firstly we would remove the jawbone and that would go to Rongomaiwahine.”

The extraction operation is expected to take six to eight hours as they move the giant 50 meters to the proposed burial site. The jaw will be removed before the rest of the carcass is buried.

“What we don’t want to do it break it or burst it. It’s got to be done correctly.”

This biodiversity officer says whale stranding’s have been common in Māhia for generations.

Quirk says, “During the year we get a large number of whales washing up on this beach. A majourity of them are smaller whales, generally about 3-4 meters long.”

Despite the somber nature of the stranding, Ngāti Rongomaiwahine says they are a good opportunity to revive ancient traditions.