"An orca that washed up dead on Whakatane's Piripai Spit has been buried whole in a nearby Maori cemetery despite researchers wanting to perform an autopsy on the two-tonne whale."Why did this happen?
"Ngati Awa cultural adviser Pouroto Ngaropo said sea creatures were spiritual guardians of the people of the land.
"This whale is a message that has been sent to us," Mr Ngaropo said.
"The last orca whale to come ashore we [Ngati Awa] know of was when Te Tahi-o-terangi rode a whale from Whakaari [Whale Island] to the mouth of the Whakatane River."
Te Tahi-o-te-rangi was a famous whale rider who, according to local legend, rode a whale-shaped taniwha called Tutarakauika to the mainland.
"Because of the whale's connection to the people of the land, it must be buried with its ancestors in the sacred urupa Opihi," Mr Ngaropo said.
Locals remained with the whale throughout Monday and Tuesday until Mr Ngaropo performed a karakia (blessing) before it was buried at Opihi."This is correct and respectful. Thank you. Nothing is unconnected, and the washing up of this whale has many layers of meaning - let's listen and learn about those meanings.