The whales had beached at Farwell Spit in Golden Bay, first reports indicating a baby whale had stranded on its own, but when officials arrived they quickly learned of a further 28 that had been stranded 2km up the coast.

Twelve of the pod died, though, and so the decision was made to euthanize the remaining 16 so as to limit their suffering.

“We talked with [whale protection organisation group] Project Jonah and came to the conclusion that we were most likely prolonging their suffering,” Department of Conservation programme manager Hans Stoffregen said, reports the New Zealand Herald.

Strandings are common from October to March.