Dead whales to be buried in sand dunes at Farewell Spit

  • 13/02/2017

The hundreds of whale carcases littering Farewell Spit's shoreline will be moved into the sand dunes and buried, authorities say.

This includes collecting more than 180 dead whales from an area of about 500m using a digger and moving them further up Farewell Spit to a nature reserve not open to the public.

While most of the dead whales are onshore, DOC said some may also wash up on beaches in Golden and Tasman bays and asked the public to report any sightings.

DOC had earlier said it planned to secure the whales where they lay and allow them to naturally decay over several months, but has since abandoned the plan.

It also said the carcasses would have holes poked in them to keep them from exploding from gas build-up.

The clean-up comes as whale rescuers are finally taking a well-earned rest after there were no new strandings at Farewell Spit on Monday, the first time since Thursday morning.

Conservation group Project Jonah on its Facebook page thanked the hundreds of volunteers who pitched into the huge relief effort over the past three days.

The mass strandings are the largest on the New Zealand mainland since records have been kept, with more than 700 pilot whales beaching in the area.

About 1000 whales beached themselves on the Chatham Islands in 1918 and 450 in Auckland in 1985.

There have been reports the 320 or so whales may "explode" on the beach where they lie on Farewell Spit.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) will have a plane scouring the area to make sure no other whales are headed towards Farewell Spit.

Golden Bay operations manager Andrew Lamason says their fingers are crossed.

"I wouldn't sound confident, but I'm bloody hopeful."

As for the carcasses, he says there's no manual on what to do. They have never had to deal with so many dead whales at once.

"In the past we've gone down a couple of different routes. One was to pick them up and deposit them in the dunes at Farewell Spit and bury them. The alternative we've tried in the last couple of strandings is to try and keep them on the shore, and let the marine ecosystem kick in and process them that way."

NZN / Newshub.