Four pilot whales have stranded at Uretiti Beach, south of Whangārei and died and there are concerns a larger pod may also try to come ashore.
Locals and volunteers from Project Jonah were at the beach, about 25km south-east of Whangārei this morning trying to refloat the whales, but all four have died
The whales stranded about 2km south of the Ruakākā surf club. The Department of Conservation has a spotter plane tracking a pod of about 30 pilot whales to make sure they don't try to strand.
Abi Monteith, from DoC said it's the natural behaviour of whales to come into shore when others strand to try to help them out.
The four dead whales were placed to face towards the sea and were blessed by Kaumatua Pera Mackie of hapu Patuharakeke about 9.15am today.
Mackie thanked all those who had gone to the beach to help refloat the whales after they stranded. He blessed all four whales
''Don't feel downhearted (that they could not be refloated) they are still with us,'' the kaumatua told the crowd.
He said the hapu would now work with DoC to decide if the dead whales would be buried on land ''or returned to tangaroa.''
The call went out on the Bream Bay Community and Waipū and Waipū Cove communities' facebook pages for volunteers to go to try to float one whale that was still alive this morning.
''A chain of people needed in case more try to come in. Bring buckets and wear wetsuit if you have one. Spread the word." the posts said.
Project Jonah volunteers were at the scene and a post on its facebook page said:
''The pod that were seen last night have swam north and some of the whales have stranded this morning. It is thought that three of the whales have already died and others have been seen milling close offshore.
We have mobilised our Northland medics to Ruakākā and our rescue trailer and senior team are on the way. High tide is at 10am.''
The pod was also seen swimming close to shore at Mangawhai yesterday evening.