A pod of orcas stunned rush-hour motorists today.

Traffic mayhem ensued when the pod of about six or seven orcas were spotted between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki, north of Wellington this afternoon.

Local resident Philip Carthew saw two separate pods this evening.

He said the pods were heading north.

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"When we last stopped we saw about six go past. I think they were hunting or looking for stingrays."

A Herald photographer said several people on State Highway 1 stopped what they were doing and whipped out cameras and cellphones, mesmerised at the orcas.

Some people climbed across the median barrier on SH1 to catch a glimpse of the marine mammals.

He said police were visibly annoyed at the gawkers and other excited motorists who couldn't resist stopping to take snaps of the killer whales.

Facebook user Amy Jamieson took a short video of an orca in the area this afternoon, its distinctive black dorsal fin piercing the sea's surface.

The Kapi-Mana News said a pod including a "mum, dad and baby" was spotted about 1.30pm near the Plimmerton Boating Club.

People in the area have witnessed playful orca pods and even a humpback whale in the area before.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) said about 150-200 orcas lived in New Zealand's coastal waters.

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DoC said pods of orca were known to visit Wellington Harbour throughout spring and summer.