Exclusive - Iwi leads International Whale Project

By Renee Kahukura-Iosefa
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

One of the most significant international research projects into whales is being led by a Bay of Plenty iwi.

The tribe of Upokorehe, near Opotiki, has become the guardian of the remains of 40 pilot whales which stranded and died at Ohiwa Harbour in 2014.

It has launched a unique research project where a marae was turned into a scientific lab to learn where the pod came from and possibly the secrets to their stranding.

Whale expert, Ramari Stewart, has been guiding the iwi through the science of careful preservation and research.

“When you get a mass stranding you have other people involved and often the whānau is pushed back because they have no experience with the whales, so you have other people making a decision,” she said.

“The idea of setting up a lab in the Marae really excited me and yes it is Upokorehe who have made that possible.”

Māori Television’s Native Affairs was the only media granted access to Whale HQ and a first look at the preserved bones. 

The exclusive story will screen tonight on Native Affairs at 8pm.