South Taranaki Māori are concerned about an unprecedented number of young, male sperm whales stranding along the area's coast.
The 13th whale found stranded on Ngati Ruanui Hapotiki hapū in less than two weeks was discovered last Friday at a remote location accessed on foot along the Waihi Beach coastline.
"It is highly unusual and there is concern about a young healthy male pod washing up in these numbers," said Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Kaiarataki Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.
"As it is the first in many of our lifetimes, the time is right to learn through this process, allowing traditions to continue with future generations and to understand more of what’s happening out there," she said.
Ms Ngarewa-Packer said thanks to the support received from Ngati Wai and Nga Ruahine, Ngati Ruanui would work together caring for both the Tohora (whale) and each other.
"This is an intense process which we undertake with careful consideration. It takes many people to respectfully receive this precious gift named Utungia."
The 11 metre-long male sperm whale will be honoured with unique traditional processes.
“We can’t determine what’s happening out in the ocean but we can learn to manage these losses in a way that brings to life cultural practices that honour and pay respect," said Ngati Ruanui Rangatira Rukutai Watene.
“We have invited Hori Parata and experts of Ngati Wai to educate and lead through this process.”
Ngati Wai are experienced in this role, having managed about 500 whale and dolphin rites throughout Aotearoa.
As the whale has chosen to rest on a rugged and often inaccessible section of Ngati Ruanui beach 'Koutu' along the Waihi-Tangahoe coastline, Ngati Ruanui will be managing limited access.