"A Wairarapa hapu is furious after a sperm whale that washed up near the remote settlement of Ngawi was butchered for its jawbone.
The 15.5-metre carcass of the whale was then set on fire before a Conservation Department ranger arrived on Friday.
Haami Te Whaiti, kaitiaki or guardian of Wairarapa hapu Ngati Hinewaka, said what happened to the whale was outrageous and illegal.
"I think it's disgraceful, what's happened. It's an act of vandalism – both the way they've removed the jaw and also burning it."
Protocol would usually have seen the carcass buried and the jawbone removed after a ceremony involving songs, he said. The jawbone and teeth should have been the property of the hapu.
"The jawbone, from a cultural point of view, is the most significant part for producing taonga.
"DOC would consider investigating the incident, which he agreed was probably illegal under the Marine Mammals Protection Act. However, unless somebody came forward, "it's probably not going to be an easy thing to discover who's done it".Is it likely to be a local or non-local? They had to wait for the whale to wash up and it was seen for some days before that happened. I don't imagine it would need one of these special investigation units from TV to work it out - just ask at the local pub.