Taxpayers have shelled out more than $12,000 to transport a dead turtle and give it a funeral.
The 350kgs leatherback turtle was found on a Canterbury beach and taken to Te Papa in 2019.
But there was confusion over permission to send it to the Wellington museum.
“One person was consulted to see if they were okay but that wasn't the endorsement of our local runanga,” Te Runaka o Koukourarata chairman Matiu Payne says.
Almost two years later the turtle was returned to Banks Peninsula, given a fully catered pōwhiri, then flown to a nearby island by helicopter and laid to rest.
Now the museum and the Department of Conservation are defending the costs around its return.
“It isn’t excessive at all, we were dealing with a turtle that weighed more than 350kgs, there are health and safety considerations associated with that as well,” DOC’s Nicola Toki says.
DOC says it's just one of many taxpayer funded initiatives with animals - part of its core business and responsibility under the Treaty of Waitangi.
However not everyone agrees with the spending.
“It certainly brings to mind the question as to why eight Te Papa staff had to fly down to Christchurch, drive out to Banks Peninsula for a highly catered funeral for a dead turtle,” Louis Houlbrooke of the Taxpayers Union says.