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Letters to the editor - Whale Tale

Dear Editor,

In her letter to the Informer (1 November), Helen Vivian posed a series of questions about DOC’s management of the recent sperm whale carcass which washed up in our district.

I’d like to address Helen’s queries so our wider community understands the approach we took and how and why decisions were made.

When the whale was initially discovered at Matapaua, we quickly identified the location presented many logistical challenges - the use of heavy machinery, a shallow sand base, and site security. The decision to relocate the animal was made by myself, as DOC’s local manager, after discussion with Ngati Hei kaumatua, Joe Davis.

Towing the animal back out to sea was deemed impractical as it would create a maritime safety risk and also potentially wash ashore again.

Helen also queried the expert advice received by DOC to inform our decisions. We took technical guidance from DOC’s marine mammal specialists and Project Jonah, which has extensive experience in dealing with these matters. Excavation operators also contributed advice to the feasibility of moving the animal.

Data was collected to assist with determining the whale’s lineage and possible cause of death. Again, this was done through consultation with iwi.

Helen queried the impact of the whale operation on the Wharekaho dotterel population. The dunes and their biodiversity values were protected during the process and three dotterel chicks hatched during the event. Our staff understand the need to protect the dotterels as this is part of our ongoing conservation work.

DOC rangers were on site at all times throughout the whale flensing, and we assessed the risk to other species and the area’s biodiversity values.

We are still collating information on the costs of the whale work so it is too early to offer those at this point. We do appreciate our responsibilities toward public funds and manage our budgets diligently. I note a lot of time was donated by iwi and the community who supported this response.

Responses to marine incidents like whale strandings are evolving situations when they occur. The circumstances can change as new information becomes available. Rangers were regularly briefed as the situation changed and decisions were made.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the wider Coromandel, and residents of Matapaua and Wharekaho community for their interest and support of this kaupapa.

Nick Kelly

Operations Manager

DOC - Coromandel


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