The whales' teeth and jawbones will be used by iwi for carving.


Eight sperm whales are dead after getting stranded on a remote South Taranaki beach.

Kaupokonui Beach Camp manager Laurence Mosen was out walking his dog Chum when he discovered the whales spread over several kilometres of shoreline about 7.30am on Thursday, his wife Sue Mosen said.

“They must have come in overnight,” she said. “I went straight down and had a look. They were all dead.”

The strandings were reported to the Department of Conservation (DOC) and staff reached the site, northeast of Hāwera, about midday.

There was no rescue attempt as the whales were dead when found, DOC spokesman Des Williams said in an email.

DOC is trying to get a veterinary pathologist to the site to try and determine the cause of stranding and deaths but this is yet to be confirmed.

DOC staff were liaising with iwi to decide further appropriate action, Williams said.

Iwi members from Ngati Tu gathered at the beach throughout the day as news spread.

Kaumatua Te Ahu Rei had said a karakia for the whales during the morning, chairman of the hapu and the Waiokura Marae trustees Hori Manuirirangi said.

“This was to clear the way for the conservation staff to do their thing.”

The jawbones and teeth of the dead mammals would be handed to the iwi for use in carving.

Diggers would be brought in to bury the animals on Friday, he said.

The eight sperm whales were spread along the beach for several kilometres.


The sombre mood of bystanders matched the weather, as cold winds, squally showers and a strong west swell battered the beach.

Nobody could remember sperm whales beaching in the area before, Manaia woman Bonita Bigham said.

“It’s unprecedented as far as I’m aware to have any of these whales beach along this coastline. I actually wonder why, from a scientific perspective and a cultural perspective, what it means for us.

“Already people are saying it is a sign, but a sign of what? That’s the challenge. It’s very sad, very emotional.

“It’s a manifestation of our worst fears, the significance of the numbers on this coastline where we don’t see sperm whales, you can’t help but wonder.”

One of eight whales washed up on Kaupokonui Beach, South Taranaki.


Lee Wineera, of Manaia, said he had heard of a sperm whale washing ashore at Tangahoe, south of Hāwera, sometime in the 1980s or 1990s.

“Is this a sign or a warning? It’s very rare that it happens en masse. I’m not superstitious but I have to ask if it is something we have done, was it seismic surveying, or did one get into trouble and the rest followed it in? That’s the million dollar question, eh.”

It is unusual but not unheard of for sperm whales to strand in such numbers, Williams said.

The last incident of this scale took place on a west Auckland beach in 2003, involving 12 whales. The largest recorded stranding of this species in New Zealand took place at Muriwai Beach in 1974, when there was 72 whales stranded.

Lee Wineera with one of the eight whales near the mouth of the Kaupokonui Stream.