Regional | Coromandel

Reburial plans after Gabrielle unearths whale in Coromandel

The sperm whale washed up at Matapaua Bay in October. Photo / Nick Kelly / Department of Conservation

Efforts are underway to re-bury a whale that was unearthed by Cyclone Gabrielle as the storm struck the Coromandel, Monday.

The whale came ashore in October last year and was buried on the beach at Wharekaho, just north of Whitianga after consultation with mana whenua Ngāti Hei.

The Department of Conservation says the whale was buried under two metres of sand after the Iwi coordinated tikanga-led salvage and recovery, However, the fierce 100+ kilometre winds and large swells which left homes underwater and roads destroyed, have also disturbed the whale’s resting place.

“We have visited the site this week and we’re formulating a plan to arrange for reburial of the whale,” Coromandel operations manager Nick Kelly said.

“Our first challenge is obtaining the resources and expertise we need to carry out this work. The peninsula has been hit very hard by Cyclone Gabrielle and resources really need to be directed to where they are most urgently required.”

Be patient, locals told

DoC is involved in the larger multi-agency response to the devastation caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, and Kelly urged locals to be patient with the reburial process.

“We really need our community to pull together at this time. We will get to the whale when we have the resources and expertise available,” he said.

Ngāti Hei kaumātua Joseph Davis whose house overlooks Wharekaho backed the DoC request and called for respect for the whale as a taonga.

“I’m asking our community to support us and our treaty partners the Department of Conservation during a very trying time,Davis said.