A Coromandel harbourmaster has posted that he was stood down after saving an orca which got its tail caught in a cray pot last night.
The killer whale was feeding on stingrays yesterday off Tokaroa Rock, at Tuateawa Bay, said Whitianga local Ian Stewart.
A Facebook post to a Whitianga community page said the Department of Conservation (DoC) was alerted at 9.30am yesterday. At 7pm it still could not get to the orca so locals decided to get involved and do it themselves, Stewart claimed.
That's when Whitianga harbourmaster Matthew Collicott stepped in. He teamed up with Cathedral Cove water taxi operators and they untangled the orca around 1am today.
Collicott claimed today on Facebook: "So my boss just stood me down from my Harbourmaster role for going out at night on the boat to save an orca," stated Collicott's Facebook post.
"I care way more about helping an orca than any job. If we had waited until daybreak the orca would have been dead. Off to hand in my phone and keys. The day just opened up by the looks."
When the Herald spoke to Collicott today he confirmed he took part in the orca rescue but did not want to comment on his work situation until later this afternoon.
"It was a really, really successful disentanglement of an orca that wasn't in a good spot. It worked out really well," Collicott said.
Waikato Regional Council chief executive Vaughan Payne confirmed Collicott is not doing operational duties while inquiries continue.
"The council acknowledges the staff member's good intent.
"However, the council is checking whether any regulations were breached or operational procedures not followed during the rescue."
Payne said Collicott was due to finish his employment on Friday as he resigned some time ago.
"The council expects its inquiry into the issues will take some time.
"The health and safety of staff is our primary concern in such circumstances."
The Herald has contacted the Thames-Coromandel District Council, DoC and the Whitianga harbourmaster for comment.
Stewart said Collicott's standing down "didn't make any sense".
"We're a very maritime sort of town who see rescuing an orca as a heroic deed and this guy's [been stood down] over it.
"There are a lot of very unhappy people around town at the moment ... It doesn't make any sense."