Three Far North iwi - Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto and Te Rarawa - are interested in the jaw and bones that will be salvaged from a 10m sperm whale that came ashore on 90 Mile Beach last week, but getting at that material is a job for the experts.
Ahipara man Patau Te Pania said yesterday that Whangarei man Hori Parata (Ngati Wai) and an experienced crew had begun flensing the carcass.
The flesh and viscera would be buried, while the highly-prized jaw and bones would be held by the Department of Conservation on behalf of Ngai Takoto until leaders of the three iwi met to decide who was entitled to them.
"Hopefully this will lead to a protocol for the future," Mr Te Pania said.
Flensing was not a pleasant process, he added. Nor was it without risk. He understood that whale blood was toxic, and those who were stripping the flesh were dressed in protective clothing.
Kaitaia man Peter Kitchen found the whale on Wednesday afternoon, just south of Hukatere. It was already dead.