Nelson iwi Ngati Tama is meeting its cultural obligations under a special protocol it has with the Department of Conservation (DOC) to protect marine mammals, a spokesperson says.
The top of the South Island tribe has been working tirelessly with DOC and the local community over summer to save hundreds of whales that have been stranded in Golden Bay.
Iwi spokesperson Jo Westrupp said when Ngati Tama signed their Treaty claim with the Crown last year there was a special agreement included in the settlement which acknowledged them as a kaitiaki or guardian of marine mammals in their rohe.
A protocol between Ngati Tama and DOC ensured that tikanga and kawa, or customs and protocols, were observed in relation to the preservation, protection and disposal of marine mammals.
The iwi pushed for that protocol to appear in the settlement legislation as it would help it and DOC to co-operate in managing marine mammal strandings at Onetahua or Farewell Spit.
It has been working tirelessly to help DOC hundreds of whales stranded at the spit, with Takaka kaumatua John Ward-Holmes going out each time local people report any whale strandings.
Ms Westrupp says Mr Ward-Holmes is supported by other tribe members, including those in the closeknit Takaka and Golden Bay communities.
Karakia, or prayers, have been said for the whales swimming out and for those which have died on the beach.