Golden Bay whale stranding costs DOC thousands

A major whale stranding at Golden Bay in February has cost the Department of Conservation (DOC) tens of thousands of dollars.

Hundreds of pilot whales stranded at Farewell Spit over a three-day period last month. DOC believes 200-250 whales died and about 400 were refloated and survived.

The stranding left hundreds of dead carcases strewn along the beach, gaining widespread coverage from international media.

Documents released to Newshub under the Official Information Act show the government response cost $49,000. This took into account staff time, contractor costs, and food for Project Jonah volunteers.

The Department of Conservation says 42 staff were involved in the mission at Farewell Spit, as well as five additional staff dealing with the media response.

Each staff member committed between six and 118 hours to the response.

That figure could rise further. DOC is required to dispose of any whale carcass that may wash up on beaches in the surrounding areas, or in the Marlborough Sounds. Officials say those instances are rare, and associated costs can’t be defined.

Whale strandings are common at Golden Bay – however this one was the largest ever seen in the region and one of the largest in New Zealand history.  Hundreds of volunteers including many international tourists holidaying in the area were involved in trying to keep the mammals alive over the three days.