The Department of Conservation says it has successfully re-floated 14 pilot whales at a Far North beach, but another seven stranded again and had to be put down.
The whales were part of a large pod that became stranded at Spirits Bay on Wednesday morning.
Between 40 and 50 had already died and heavy seas prevented DoC staff from refloating the mammals from that beach.
The survivors were transported more than 50km south to Rarawa Beach on Friday. DoC says three whales died during or after the journey, and the remainder were released about 7.30pm.
While some swam away immediately, others were herded out by boats and jetskis.
DoC incident controller Johnathan Maxwell says there was sadness at having to put down the seven whales which re-stranded, but also a sense of elation on the beach that 14 of the herd successfully made it out to sea.
Burials were underway at Spirits Bay and Rarawa Beach on Saturday.
In August, about 60 pilot whales were stranded on the Karikari peninsula in the Far North. Fewer than a quarter survived.