Southern right whale spotted in Wellington harbour

12:31 pm on 3 July 2018

Wellington commuters have been treated to a rare sighting of a southern right whale in the harbour this morning.

The whale was visible from State Highway 2 between Petone and Ngauranga and one cyclist stopped to enjoy a spot of whale watching.

Department of Conservation marine species support officer Hannah Hendriks said it was the first recorded sighting since 2010.

Ms Hendriks said it was not unusual for whales to come into the harbour.

"It could have been going past the harbour entrance and accidentally came in or it just wanted somewhere sheltered. Southern right whales often come in to sheltered bays to rest.

"Back in the day, they used to be abundant here - they would come in here to breed."

Ms Hendriks said it was unlikely DOC would head out to take a look, unless there were reports of people getting too close.

"We'll probably just leave it be unless there are reports of something gone wrong or if people are getting to close to it.

"You have to stay at least 50 metres away from whales in New Zealand."

Ms Hendriks said the southern right whale could grow to 18m.

It was probably swimming on its own, and it was anyone's guess as to how long it might stay.