DOC has managed to get one pod of whales at risk of stranding back out to deeper waters tonight, but still have serious concerns for another pod.
The pilot whales came into the harbour between Ohope Beach and Opotiki late yesterday afternoon. Eight of the mammals beached, six of which had to be euthanised.
DOC workers managed to get one of the pods of whales back out to deeper waters just before sunset.
However, locals told Radio New Zealand they had returned and there appeared to be about 60 in the harbour about 10pm.
DOC said the whales are near Whangakopikopiko/ Tern Island, which is inside the harbour mouth.
Bay of Plenty spokesperson Peter Huggins said it was believed a pilot whale experiencing problems in Ohiwa harbour, between Ohope and Opotiki, may be responsible for drawing the pod in.
The stranded whales had been euthanised on welfare grounds. "We've been focusing our attention on the remaining whales in the water and trying to get those animals out the harbour," he said.
Mr Huggins said the next refloating opportunity is at 5.45am tomorrow.
Police said Harbour Road is closed to traffic from Te Taiawatea Drive.