A woman has received moderate leg injuries after a shark attack in Southland.

The woman was attacked in Curio Bay at just after 2pm.

She is currently being transported via helicopter to Dunedin Hospital.

Emergency services were called just after 2pm and a rescue helicopter was sent from Dunedin.

Advertisement

HeliOtago spokesman Graeme Gale confirmed a chopper was heading out to the incident at Curio Bay.

A local resident said the rescue helicopter landed just after 3pm, touching down outside a crib on Waikawa-Curio Bay Rd.

One of the Curio Bay locals, Natalie, spotted the chopper land on the strip of beach, at about 3pm a short time after the ambulance arrived.

"It was just out in front of the house; it landed in front of the houses on the beach."

The local woman said her house was situated a wee way up the hill, so she couldn't see too much from where she was.

"I'm high up on the hill and I just look down," she said. "I didn't want to be nosey and go down. I thought they would be busy."

She said aside from the afternoon flurry with the emergency services it had been a calm day at the beach.

Natalie had lived in the area for about four years and remembered hearing of one other shark attack when she first moved into her house at Curio Bay.

However, she said the news didn't put her off going for a swim.

"It's very rare to hear of a shark attack," she said. "It's not something to be worried about - at the end of the day you know they are out there in the water, wherever you are.

"It's just part and parcel of the ocean."

Natalie hadn't heard who might have been injured in the attack, but said if it was a local she would know as Curio Bay was a pretty tight-knit community.

However, she said there tended to be a lot of tourists visiting from time to time, so it could also be one of them.

Department of Conservation marine scientist Clinton Duffy said a range of shark species could be found in that area, including great whites, mako, blue sharks and broadnosed seven-gill sharks.

"And the species most likely to be involved in an attack is either going to be a seven-gill or a great white shark."

It remained extremely rare for swimmers and surfers to encounter sharks in the wild, let alone be attacked by them.

"On average, we get one or two incidents every year, but it's rare that people get seriously injured."

While University of Florida's International Shark Attack File (ISAF) recorded around 50 New Zealand shark attacks since 1852, it was estimated the actual figure was more around 113, although the accuracy of information collected before the 1960s wasn't clear.Around a dozen of them are known to have been fatal, the most recent of which occurred at Muriwai Beach in February 2013.

Statistically, the rate of shark encounters paled in comparison to the number of Kiwis injured each year by seemingly harmless activities like dancing -there were 8125 related ACC claims in 2014 - and luge riding (373 claims).

In 2014, a surfer was bitten three times, reportedly by a great white, while he was surfing at Porpoise Bay, near Curio Bay.

Surfer Darren Mills, 28, punched the shark away. Mills suffered three deep gashes between his thigh and his calf as the shark latched on to his leg while he sat on his surfboard 50m offshore.

Mills spoke to the Herald on Sunday on the first anniversary of the attack.

The British man, who lives in Arrowtown, was offshore when he felt a bump and looked down to see the terrifying sight of the teeth of a great white - later judged by DoC staff to be 3.5m long and with a 52 cm-wide mouth - clamped on to his leg.

"I sort of punched it in the nose and it let go. I fell off the board and I saw its tail come out of the water as it was heading away from me. The surfboard basically saved my life because the bottom jaw went into the surfboard ... if it had closed around my leg I wouldn't be here."

He still had a series of ragged scars down his right thigh and had kept his surfboard, with its shark-teeth print.

It took him almost a year to return to the water, but he felt no animosity towards the species.

"There are people who die from these attacks. I'm really lucky."