A ranger who helped to save six pygmy killer whales is both devastated and relieved with the lengthy rescue efforts.
Twelve mammals washed up on 90 Mile Beach two days ago but four died before they could be refloated.
The Department of Conservation and 300 volunteers worked to re-float the remaining eight, but two came back to shore in bad health and both had to be euthanised.
DOC community ranger Jamie Werner said the last couple of days had been intense.
"I'm devastated, I'm overwhelmed, I'm exhausted, I'm happy."
Refloating efforts began this morning at about 9.30am.
Two whales were taken out to sea on pontoons towed by inflatable rescue boats and the rest were given time to re-adjust to the water in the waves.
But two of the weakest whales, rebeached three times, which caused the rest of the pod to stick close to the shore.
"They are that well in tune with each other, that they all tend to come back to their weakest ones."
There was a real fear the rest would beach themselves again, he said.
After the tough decision was made to euthanise the two beached whales, the rest of the pod turned back towards the open sea.
"It's just like whanau, they always look after their weak."
Mr Werner said it was "mindblowing" how many people from the local community, iwi, schools and organisations turned up to help out with the rescue.
"We have done everything we can humanely possible, within our limitations and now it's up to the whales."
He said its unsurprising that people wanted to help whales.
"They have that connection."
"Here in the Far North, it's expected, we are just surrounded by amazing people and this reiterates that," Mr Werner said.