Concerns as rescued Farewell Spit whales mill around low tide mark, unwilling to swim out

There are concerns that a number of whales rescued after stranding at Farewell Spit today could re-strand themselves overnight.

About 416 pilot whales stranded this morning on the narrow stretch of land, the Department of Conservation said, and about 100 of those had been refloated by armies of volunteers during the day.

About 50 whales were thought to be still at sea, but as of about 4pm, DOC estimated 80-90 whales had res-stranded on the beach during the day after being rescued.

About 276 whales have died.

High tide overnight Friday will take place about 10.30pm, but because it will be dark, rescue teams have ruled that it is too dangerous to work with the huge animals in pitch black conditions.

The next available high tide is on Saturday morning about 11am, and rescue efforts are likely to begin once the whales become buoyant about 10.30am.

Kelsey from Collingwood Area School has been at the spit all day for her first whale rescue. Source: 1 NEWS

More than 500 volunteers turned out to help, many of which are coming back again on Saturday morning - DOC says that at this stage no further volunteers are needed.

Are you there? Please email video and photos to news@tvnz.co.nz

Live Updates:

5pm: 1 NEWS Now's live coverage of the stranding has now concluded. We will continue to bring you stories from Farewell Spit as they emerge, and will have more coverage when rescue efforts resume tomorrow morning.

Hundreds have headed to Golden Bay to help re-float a pod of whales. Source: 1 NEWS

Hundreds of whales were stranded on Farewell Spit, many have died but there is hope left for some. Source: 1 NEWS

4.20pm: Project Jonah General Manager Daren Grover says many of the 50 whales refloated today are reluctant to head into deeper water and are milling around the low tide mark, perhaps unwilling to leave their social group. Mr Grover told 1 NEWS there are deep concerns they could re-strand themselves overnight. The conditions at Farewell Spit are becoming increasingly cold and windy and focus is now turning to planning tomorrow's effort. Volunteers will be pulled off the beach as light fades tonight, as working with black whales on a dark beach in dark water is very dangerous, Mr Grover said. The first refloating efforts are due to begin tomorrow morning about half an hour before high tide when the remaining whales become buoyant about 10.30am or so.

3.40pm: The Department of Conservation has given updated figures on the Farewell Spit stranding. It says a total of 416 whales were stranded, and 50 whales have now been refloated and are out at sea. About 80-90 are still alive on the beach, and about 276 whales have died. 

3.20pm: 1 NEWS reporter Emily Cooper, who is at Farewell Spit, has posted a video showing just how many dead whales are at the site.

3.15pm: Massey University is sending a scientist to perform necropsies on some of the deceased whales in order to find out if a disease or trauma was behind the stranding. Dr Stuart Hunter says the animals are insulated with a lot of blubber, so they will decompose quickly and time is of the essence. Their goal is to find out if there is an underlying reason for the stranding.

3.00pm: The next high tide is at 10.40pm tonight, but experts say it is too dangerous to try to refloat whales at night, so the next attempt will have to be at high tide about 11am tomorrow morning.

1 NEWS reporter Emily Cooper brings us the latest from the massive pilot whale stranding in Golden Bay. Source: 1 NEWS

2.50pm: A mother and daughter who travelled from Nelson to help save whales have named one of them Echo, and are hopeful of its survival. Watch the video below.

2.20pm: The surviving whales are split along the beach, Project Jonah says. They are encouraging volunteers to read this guide before heading for Farewell Spit.

1.45pm: The next high tide at Farewell Spit is at 10.45pm - about 9 hours from now. Low tide is is about 4.40pm and volunteers will be pulled out of the water at sundown for their safety. Volunteers are being rotated by Project Jonah co-ordinators to keep them from getting too cold.

1.41pm: Louisa Hawkes of Project Jonah says she has never seen a stranding this big before. "This is quite emotional - it's encouraging to see the number of people who have come out to help ... We're going to give these whales the best chance we can ... Thank you to everybody who has come out to support us, particularly locals and medics who have driven some distance - it's really great to see everybody come out here to help the whales."

1.35pm: Update: About 45 whales have now been refloated, with volunteers forming a "human chain" to discourage the whales from coming back ashore. Blankets have been laid over the surviving whales, and they are being kept wet, and trenches are being dug around the whales to keep them comfortable.

1.30pm: The stranding is within walking distance of a popular cafe, and locals are joining forces with a number of tourists who have come down to take a look.

1.25pm: The area where the whales have stranded is a relatively high spot of Farewell Spit, and whales are known to usually strand further down the spit. This makes rescue efforts much more difficult.

1.05pm: Harrowing footage is coming in of whales making sounds of distress as volunteers try and keep them wet and comfortable.

12.55pm: This stranding is the third largest since records began in the late 1800s.

1 NEWS reporter Emily Cooper brings us the latest from the massive pilot whale stranding in Golden Bay. Source: 1 NEWS

Around 70 per cent of the 400-odd whales that stranded died, but most of those who remained alive were successfully refloated. 

Trained staff and volunteers moved in a line to encourage the refloated whales to swim away from danger. Source: 1 NEWS

12.30pm: Our cameraman Sam shot these images of rescuers wading in water, trying to move the surviving whales out to deeper water.

12.25pm: It's currently a waiting game for rescuers, who are desperately hoping the surviving whales won't restrand on the outgoing tide.

Low tide is at 4.36pm. 

A 1 NEWS camera captures heart-breaking footage of whales littered everywhere – and rescuers trying to herd the survivors back to sea. Source: 1 NEWS



'Angel' takes disabled friend on 'wacky' world adventures and is rewarded with $10,000

A young woman who has taken a teenager with cerebral palsy on adventures around the world, donated a kidney to an old school friend and helped many others has been rewarded with $10,000 for more adventures and to look after herself for a change.

Leah Stewart, who's 23, is the winner of this week's ASB Good as Gold award on TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.

Donating an organ and helping others were on a bucket list Leah wrote when she was just 16, and she's doing a pretty good job of ticking them off. 

Nineteen-year-old Alicia Kapa - Leah's best friend - and Mum Joanna Kapa have really appreciated Leah's help.

Joanna explained that Alicia wasn't breathing when she was born and has cerebral palsy as a result of that lack of oxygen. 

"She loves adventure and her and her best mate Leah have travelled around the world and done all sports of crazy, crazy things," Joanna said.

These have included a cruise in the Bahamas, adventures in New York and bungy jumping.

Joanna said it means a huge amount to her that Alicia is "getting out and doing stuff that everybody at her age should be able to do, that she's safe, she hasn't got her mother hanging around with her, which is a big thing".

Alicia agreed with that last point.

She's everything that you would think when you think of an angel - Joanna Kapa

Joanna said Leah is "everything that you would think when you think of an angel".

While Alicia declared: "Leah is an amazing friend to me."

Leah and Alicia's adventures have been documented in videos on their own YouTube channel called 'Wheely Wacky Adventures".

Reporter Sam Wallace surprised Leah in suburban Auckland telling her ASB want to give her $5000 for some more Wheely Wacky Adventures, and $5000 "for you to look after yourself because you never do it".

"That sounds amazing," said a stunned Leah as she hugged Alicia in her wheelchair out on the street, surrounded by friends.

Leah admitted she has helped "a few" people and said just over a year ago she donated her left kidney to a friend from high school and "thinks" she saved her life.

The win will help with a trip she and Alicia booked themselves next week because they were missing each other. 

"And the whole thing went on my credit card because I had no money in the bank. And I knew I had some big student loans coming up. I was planning on calling the IRD on Monday and sorting out one of them," Leah said.

This giving friend can relax a little now - until the next wacky adventure.

Leah Stewart wrote her list when she was 16 and she's doing a pretty good job of ticking them off. Source: Seven Sharp


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Auckland boy who lost his dad to cancer thriving through programme helping young rugby players

A programme in West Auckland is coaching rugby coaches to help young players develop life skills to deal with big challenges.

Jonesy's Youth Foundation was set up by Michael Jones - who shares his name with the legendary former All Black.

"The idea came to me through Massey Rugby Club. There was a boy who's mum got killed about 14 years ago, and for some reason it stuck with me all that time, 'what did the rugby club do to help him after the situation?'" Jones told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp. 

Through the foundation, men run courses for coaches of junior rugby players.

"What the courses will do is it'll teach the coach to be able to integrate rugby skills with character development and life skill development," Mr Jones said."

It's about developing the young players "as people first," he said.

Ben Allen - or 'Pies' as he's known coaches schoolboy rugby player Connor O'Donnell. Connor's Dad, Shaun, died four years ago from cancer.

Mr Allen said he teaches Connor, "things like communication and talking to his teammates and encouraging each other which are all important traits that you need in life".

"I'll never replace Shaun. He was an amazing Dad and and an amazing guy."

He's really good and he's helped me with confidence and things like that. - Junior rugby player Connor O'Donnell

Connor reckons 'Pies' is an amazing coach.

"He's really good and he's helped me with confidence and things like that."

Connor's Mum, Helen O'Donnell, said she promised his Dad before he died that she'd keep his love and passion for rugby going, but struggled with how she'd do that. She said Shaun would be "absolutely over the moon" that she's been able to keep that promise.  

The foundation has had some high-profile helping hands like former All Black Josh Kronfeld. 

Kronfeld said the coaches help the players with, "how to deal with pressure, how to deal with the bad moments, and loss, all those things".

Jonesy - who's also a Dad - says the foundation is there for for the long haul.

"We're here forever. We want to see him develop and grow [into] that 18 and 20-year-old when he gets a job."

Jonesy's Youth Foundation is having a Gala Dinner this Saturday. If you want tickets, the details are on Seven Sharp's Facebook page.


Jonesy's Youth Foundation is there for Connor O'Donnell, and others, in their time of need. Source: Seven Sharp

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'My god she can run' - woman at centre of hilarious Kawakawa dog escape video says Lily is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame

A Bay of Islands woman told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp she is "never going to live this down" after footage of her rescue dog Lily dragging a bakery's flag down the main street of Kawakawa went viral around the globe.

CCTV footage of the freedom-seeking furball's runner — accompanied by Yakety Sax, the song made famous by the Benny Hill Show — has been viewed more than 500,000 times since it was posted to Facebook last night.

Lucie Green, a volunteer with Bay of Islands Animal Rescue, was taking the basset hound for a walk last week when she decided to stop at a local business to buy Lily a treat.

But the Basset Hound received a fright and bolted despite being tied to a large Coca-Cola flag forcing Lucie to give chase.

"For an animal with just little legs, my god she can run," Lucie told Seven Sharp.

Lily, Lucie and the rogue flag brought Kawakawa's State Highway 1 strip to a standstill, the whole escapade captured on CCTV.

"My partner owns a local CCTV company I got to the office and I told him what had happened.

"He didn't tell me he'd done it, but he edited footage and put the music on and uploaded it to Facebook and tagged me in it.

"I knew it was trouble when basically by the time we'd gone to bed last night it had hit 100,000 views," Lucie said.

Thousands of people have since commented on the video, with many of them admiring the dog’s spirit.

"I'm laughing my guts out it's so funny," wrote Facebook user Annie Hicks.

Lucie does see the funny side of events however.

"They say every dog has their day, so I guess Lily is enjoying her 15 mins of fame." 

Lily made a run for it when owner Lucie Green stopped at a shop in the Northland town. Source: Seven Sharp


Tracking down New Plymouth youth MP candidates after Andrew Little's 'hip' appeal

Labour MP Andrew Little released a tongue in cheek video encouraging young people from New Plymouth to get involved in politics today.

The video inspired TVNZ1's Seven Sharp to travel to Mr Little's old school to find the perfect candidate for its new youth MP.

Judge for yourself if New Plymouth Boys' High students Thomas Foy and Jarrod Wilson have what it takes in the video above.

Tamati Rimene-Sproat is on the case after the Labour MP's piece of political theatre. Source: Seven Sharp