Nearly four months after it came ashore on an isolated Far North beach, the carcass of a 22m whale is causing a huge stink for the property owners, with no respite in sight as the Department of Conservation will not remove the large, rotting marine mammal.
The blue whale washed up on the beach at the property of Andrea Thackwray and her family in early July. The family was hoping to use the bay, in Mahinepua Bay, as a venue for weddings, but that has had to be put on hold until the whale is gone.
But with DoC effectively owning the carcass and not allowing people to touch it because of the health risk, Mrs Thackwray said she could not afford to remove it and the rotting carcass now smelt horrible. As a baleen whale the bones were porous and no good for carving so the local hapu did not want it either.
"We've had everybody out to have a look, DoC, the health board, the regional council, but nobody can remove it. It's over the hill from the house, but when there's an easterly we can smell it from the house...it smells pretty revolting when we do get [the smell on the wind]," she said.
"We were wanting to set it up as a wedding venue, but we just can't risk it until it's gone, so we've had to put that on hold for a year at our expense. We had hoped that it would have rotted away and been carried away on a big tide, but that hasn't happened.
"There's nothing really eating it and the birds give it a wide berth, and it's just leaking this big oil slick from the fat into the sea. Some locals say as a result the fishing is the worst it's ever been."
There is also a rahui on gathering shellfish from the area as a result of the decomposing carcass.
The family had owned the property since 1986 and it was the first time a whale has washed up. The beach was inaccessible for machinery by land and the only way to remove it would be to barge heavy equipment in, but that was prohibitive.
"It's slowly reducing in size, but at this rate it will take months and months and we'd love it gone. The health board hasn't declared it a health risk as it's not hazardous to the wider health of the public, but it can be a shocking smell on an easterly and it's not safe to go on the beach with it there - there are signs up saying don't touch it."
DoC ranger, operations, Elke Reufels said removing such a large carcass was generally not something DoC did unless it was a wider public health risk.
Ms Reufels said in effect the whale was akin to road kill and nature would have to take its course.
"It's really not practical for us to remove a large carcass like that. That said, it would be very different if it was in a very public location. I can understand their concerns and it's unfortunate but there's no easy way to get in there and uplift it. And it would likely cause more health risks by removing it," she said.
"It would be pretty expensive to remove, and at the end of the day it's a problem that will get better every day [as it decomposes more]."