Council made 'bad call' - orca rescuer

A Coromandel harbourmaster stood down for rescuing an orca has spoken exclusively to Newshub, saying he doesn't believe he broke any rules.

Former Whitianga harbourmaster Mat Collicott helped to free the orca from a cray pot line using a Waikato Regional Council boat against his boss's advice.

Now, his actions in the nighttime orca rescue are under council investigation.

"It'd been a long night, we got in about 5am, I got a text message about 8am saying you've been stood down from all duties, don't talk to the media," Mr Collicott says.

He'd already resigned, and his last day was meant to be last Friday.

But he told them: "I'm going to work, I couldn't care less, I've got stuff to do."

However, the council wouldn't allow it.

"They found someone who took my car keys and my cellphone," he says.

He says the council later told him he was allowed to do some duties.

He denies breaching any regulations during the rescue, and says the Council has made a big mistake.

"The Council could have come out of this smelling of roses, it could've been the perfect way for the regional council to end the year," he says.

"Unfortunately there was a bad call made by lower management."

The Waikato Regional Council said in a statement investigations into the incident are underway and an update was likely later this week.

The Department of Conservation's also facing the heat.

It knew the orca was in trouble 16 hours before the rescue, and is now investigating its own response.

Local resident Stella Pennell has convinced more than 3,000 people to sign a petition asking the council to apologise to Mr Collicott.

Mr Collicut says it wasn't just humans who were there to help - three other orcas were using their body weight to keep it breathing.

And he's certain it was worth the risk.

"What we did, clearly, we've upset some people, we've broken some rules, but absolutely it was 100 percent worth it, and any Kiwi with half a brain would do exactly the same thing," he says.

More than 3000 people have signed a petition asking for the council to apologise to Mr Collicut.