A whale that stranded at Farewell Spit died before the high tide could reach it, despite the efforts of volunteers.
The 17 metre-long Sei whale was beached around 1km from the high water mark and it was hoped the whale would be able to refloat itself when the tide was at its peak, around 1.30am today.
General manager of the New Zealand whale-saving organisation Project Jonah, Daren Grover, told the Herald the whale died around 10pm yesterday.
Grover said the Department of Conservation would now work with iwi on a blessing before decisions were made about how to bury the whale.
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A DoC spokesperson confirmed the whale showed no sign of trauma or injury and was a healthy weight.
They said local iwi, DoC staff, and about 30 volunteers worked into the night, keeping the whale moist and cooling it with cold water before it died at 9.25pm.
The whale would be refloated and towed out to the Farewell Spit tidal flats at the next high tide, after local iwi bless the animal.
Grover said any whale death was tough on people who went out to save the animals and Project Jonah always reminded volunteers to prepare themselves for this tragic outcome and to seek support.
He said human input could "make a difference in the last few hours of this animal's life".
"People were caring for it, removing some stress from it. so it's just an urge we have in ourselves. People just want to help".