The orca calf left stranded in Bay of Plenty waters has been transferred to a land-based pool and is being cared for by experts.

The land-based structure was a temporary holding area for the maki as his health has been deteriorating after 20 days struggling in strong currents without his family pod.

Iwi representative Carlton Bidois said the rescue team was still focused on creating a sea pen in the water.

The Orca Research Trust made the decision to move the calf, with experts Jeff Foster and Dr Ingrid Visser saying the calf needed to be moved based on its declining health.


"Given the calf's current level of emaciation, it's unlikely to hydrate quickly even if we could unite it with a pod, DOC operations manager Jeff Milham said.

To achieve the overarching goal of reuniting the calf with its family in the wild, he needed to be moved to a place for rest and assessment.

"This is an unprecedented situation given the age of the calf. We are working with marine mammal experts and iwi to evaluate all the possible options.

The location of the sea water pool and future sea pen were being kept secret to avoid interactions with the whale and an exclusion zone had been set up.

Aneta Mitai spotted a pod of orcas swimming back and forth along Papamoa beach on Tuesday.

She quickly put in a call to the Orca Research Trust hotline to let the rescue team know.

"We have contacted DOC and let them know, they will hopefully be trying to reunite the whales," Ms Mitai said.

Mr Mitai said the orcas seemed to be circling the area when she first arrived at the beach around midday with her two-year-old son and two dogs.

"They were heading towards Maketu and then they reappeared approximately 45 minutes later heading back towards Mount Maunganui.

"They are very beautiful, majestic creatures," she said.

DOC did not comment or confirm that a pod of orcas had been spotted off shore in Papamoa.