The whales were re-floated at high tide in the late morning but linked up with a so-called "super pod" of 200 whales gathered off shore. The others have been euthanised.
Within hours, hundreds of farmers, tourists and teenagers were racing to keep the surviving 140 or so whales alive in one of the worst whale strandings in the nation's history.
The Department of Conservation says it hopes this original group of about 200 whales are now out at sea. The smaller pod came close, I think what they are looking for is a larger whale who can lead them.
The department first received reports of the stranded pod on Thursday at about 8pm but did not send a rescue team until 5.30am the following morning because it said it was too unsafe to attempt to rescue the whales at night, the New Zealand Herald reports.
If necessary, a second attempt to refloat the stranded whales will take place on Saturday.
"They like to stay together", he said.
Grover said rescuers were relying on this morning's high tide to help refloat the mammals. Their role yesterday was keep the animals upright to so they could breathe properly and rock them gently to stop fluid accumulating in their bodies.
A shortage of food caused by overfishing can result in malnourished whales.
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Local iwi representatives Mairangi Reiher and Shane Graham have provided a karakia, or prayer, over the dead whales.
This is the third largest recorded whale stranding in NZ since data started being collected in the 1800's.
In 1918 1000 whales beached themselves on the Chatham Islands, and in 1985 450 stranded at Great Barrier Island off the coast of Auckland.
Out of the hundreds of whales stranded near the base of Farewell Spit, 250 to 300 of them were already dead when discovered, officials said.
Whales are thought to beach themselves if they are old, sick or injured, or make a navigational error. They were able to tell this because they had tagged each of the refloated whales so that they could be identified in case they beach themselves again.
"There are 240 at the last count stranded whales between Pyponga and Pakawau and they're stranded in clusters of the sand".
Around 100 whales have been refloated so far, according to Project Jonah, an organisation in New Zealand that mobilises stranding rescue operations.