A Project Jonah leader has praised volunteers for their efforts in saving hundreds of whales who stranded at Farewell Spit.
Around 300 volunteers formed a human chain this morning, neck-deep in the ocean, in order to stop a pod of 200 whales from coming closer to shore and beaching.
The Project Jonah leader told volunteers they had "played a part in history" and that it was their actions that had saved the lives of hundreds of whales.
"That is the positive action you guys helped create," he said.
"Because of you, those lives are still out in the bay."
He called the volunteers "the best team I've ever worked with".
Volunteers came from as far as Taranaki and Rotorua to help with the rescue, saying they wouldn't go home until the whales were safe.
About 180 more whales stranded this evening at four different places around the coast.
It appeared many of them were new whales that have stranded for the first time, not whales that were previously saved.
Efforts to save the whales have been put on hold for the night as the incoming tide made it too dangerous for volunteers.
Project Jonah are calling for more people to volunteer tomorrow as more whales are expected to be beached.