A surfer was flown to hospital last night in a serious condition after being mauled by a shark off the Southland coast.
The man was bitten three times, reportedly by a great white, while he was surfing at Porpoise Bay, near Curio Bay, about 8.30pm.
Witness Nick Smart told the Weekend Herald late last night that members of the public rushed to help the man - who had managed to get back to shore on his own - before his friends realised what had happened.
"His friends helped him when he got to the shallow part and ... he was in a lot of pain and wasn't saying much. We rushed to give him blankets and there was a doctor holidaying on the beach who also helped."
He said: "I could see a cut in his wetsuit. It looked to be a 10cm gash in one leg."
Mr Smart, owner of Catlins Surf school, said a friend had witnessed the attack and had seen the shark which came up underneath the man and knocked him off his surf board.
"He reckoned it was a couple of metres long - he said the dorsal fin wasn't too big."
Inspector Murray Hurst, of police southern communications, said the man suffered serious lacerations to his upper legs, and lost a lot of blood.
He was flown by helicopter to Southland Hospital.
A large crowd gathered as news of the attack spread, including a doctor and nurse.
"It was good to have the doctor on the beach, there was that initial shock and he was definitely in pain."
The attack came as a shock to Mr Smart, although there were reports of a shark hitting a surfer in nearby Colac Bay a few weeks ago.
"I've surfed the bay thousands of times and done thousands of instructions and thought of it as safe as a church."
Nick Stratford, the owner of Curio Bay Accommodation, said he had lived in the area for many years and had never seen a shark while out surfing.
"There are a whole lot of dolphins around here, but this is the first time I've heard of a shark coming near here. Sometimes we hear of someone seeing them further out, while on their boats, but never close to the beach."
Last month a junior Southland doctor made headlines around the world when he stitched up a wound caused by a shark attack while fishing near Cosy Nook, off the south coast.
James Grant fought off the shark, believed to be a sevengill, before he treated his wound and his mates took him to the hospital.
The last fatal shark attack in New Zealand waters was Auckland film- maker Adam Strange, 47, who was killed at Muriwai, Auckland in February 2013.
Additional reporting: Otago Daily Times, APNZ