A pod of pilot whales are moving on to deeper waters, minus the 19 who died on Saturday night, after restranding in a remote part of the Coromandel.
An update from Project Jonah, a charity organisation which rescues and protects marine mammals, said the 19 dead whales had been blessed by local iwi and were in the process of being buried.
"The pilot whales in Colville Bay have been slowly heading towards deeper water this morning and are now approximately 3km offshore," the statement said.
"The whales have been monitored by Department of Conservation rangers in boats for several hours. We hope that the whales now remain at sea."
The pod of 40 to 60 pilot whales stranded at Colville Bay were refloated and guided offshore at high tide on Saturday night, after a massive effort by volunteers to keep them cool and wet in the wait for the rising tide.
In an update on Sunday morning, however, Project Jonah said: "Sadly, overnight 19 whales split from the pod and stranded on a rocky headland.
"Those whales have died."
The Department of Conservation was monitoring the remaining whales which were free swimming in the bay.
Between 40 to 60 pilot whales are involved in a shallow stranding in a remote part of the Coromandel.
Department of Conservation Coromandel District operations manager Nick Kelly said roughly 25 specimens have stranded on mudflats at the Colville Bay site.
"There are between 40 to 60 pilot whales involved.
"They are in two separate pods: a shallow stranding which we are currently managing by keeping the animals comfortable, the other pod is further out and we are shepherding those out to sea."
Unfortunately, the next high tide is around 9pm.
"We appreciate public's concern and we have staff on-site who are accepting items such as buckets, blankets or food for our staff to contribute to the effort."
However, Kelly said they were asking the public to stay away from the site to allow the DoC staff to do their job.
"We have six DoC staff on-site, and they are supported by rural fire brigade and members of the local iwi."
Posts started emerging on Facebook this morning from locals and advocacy groups about the pod of whales sighted "swimming in very shallow, muddy water" in Colville Bay.
Project Jonah New Zealand, a group dedicated to saving whales, posted updates on its Facebook page after it received calls from concerned locals.
The post read that DoC staff were on-site and Project Jonah medics were on standby. Locals were helping to prevent the whales from stranding.
"Part of the pod in the Coromandel have avoided stranding, with other whales in the shallows.
"Department of Conservation rangers and Project Jonah medics are assisting locals with the remaining whales in the shallows."
The response is expected to take all day.
Cetacean Ecology Research Group shared on its Facebook that about 20 whales were aground.
"A larger pod of pilot whales in the Coromandel have avoided stranding, with 20 or so whales are currently aground."
"Department of Conservation rangers and Project Jonah medics are assisting locals with the remaining whales in the shallows and Massey University researchers from Cetacean Ecology Research Group - CERG are in transit to collect valuable needed for welfare assessment."
In December 2019, 21 pilot whales had to be buried despite the efforts of hundreds of holidaymakers after 63 whales became stranded in Colville Bay.
Fishermen saw the whales, most between 3m and 4m long, struggling about 300m offshore in the early hours of the morning but when DoC workers arrived two hours later, 21 whales had died.
Up to 500 residents, iwi members and holidaymakers helped to keep the remaining whales wet. When the tide rose in the early afternoon, 42 whales were refloated.
At the time DoC senior adviser Mike Donoghue said the bay was a typical place for whales to become disoriented.
"It is shallow, sloping and sandy. Their sonar would have shattered in the sand and had a weak signal return.''
More to come.