28 Nov 2018

Northland iwi influential in whale strandings

4:00 pm on 28 November 2018

The high number of whale strandings is showing the value of iwi involvement in rescue efforts with one Northland iwi leading the way.

Volunteers and DoC staff help the pygmy whales.

Volunteers and DoC staff help the pygmy whales. Photo: Project Jonah / Facebook

Ngātiwai has been at the center of a number of rescue efforts and is helping other iwi to revive traditional knowledge that has been lost.

Ngāti Kahu recently gave permission for the Department Of Conservation to test the stomach contents of a sperm whale that died on a beach in Northland.

Iwi representative Robert Ulrich said they had also called on Northland iwi Ngātiwai to help them with the burial and removal of the whale.

Earlier his week 12 pygmy whales stranded at Ninety Mile Beach and they were moved by trailer to Te Rarawa Beach in an effort to refloat them.

Sheridan Waitai, who helped with rescue efforts, said iwi like Ngātiwai have played a central role in guiding other iwi when whales strand.

"Ngātiwai which is down here in Whangarei has been our main drivers that have set up protocols for working with whales and protocols with DOC.

"They've been doing that for years and the whales are a part of the Wai 262 claim," he said.

Mr Waitai said the public is generally respectful around the use Māori tikanga at whale strandings.

"You know during the ceremonies we ask people to leave at certain parts because it's not a pretty sight for some people but it is our tupuna."

Earlier this year the South Taranaki hapū of Ngāti Tu had a mass stranding of sperm whales, an event hapū member Bonita Bigham said was unprecedented.

"It was a pretty traumatic time for us having this kind of event here and we had no idea what to do or who to turn to.

"But we were quickly referred to matua Hori Parata and his team of experts from Ngātiwai in Northland," she said.

Bonita Bigham said Ngāti Tu has since been able to create its own management plan for strandings and gain matauranga which had been lost.

"Our people can come together collectively with the knowledge and resources we we're can go and help others which has already happened."

Ms Bigham said the hapū was grateful to the support of Ngātiwai - and feels iwi need more recognition for the work they do.

"Hopefully with more understanding of treaty principals and partnership obligations that in future generations that ignorance will lessen."