Five orcas have died after six were stranded at Cape Runaway in the eastern Bay of Plenty yesterday.
Four of the pod were already dead when the Department of Conservation were called about 2pm to the remote settlement of Whangaparaoa Bay.
Locals refloated one of the remaining two yesterday afternoon and they kept a second, larger beast alive overnight.
However it did not survive.
The department's operation manager Jade King-Hazel said officials remained in contact with local Joe Rua who had previous experience with whale strandings.
Bad weather prevented a small response team flying to the area by helicopter.
After one orca was successfully refloated, a seven-person response team from Whakatane and Opotiki was to have driven to the area at dawn, but the orca died.
Today DoC defended the decision to wait until today to help refloat the stranded animals, saying because of safety concerns it was standard procedure to leave them during darkness and return at daylight to refloat on the high tide.
King-Hazel praised the efforts of the local volunteers to rescue the smaller animal.
The department was now working with the local hapu and Te Runanga o Te Whanau a Apanui about burial plans.
It was also liaising with the New Zealand Orca Research Trust to establish what information and samples they might need.