The natural world is a weird, wonderful and - sometimes - dangerous place.

On Saturday, Sarah O'Grady was swimming at Pilot Bay when she realised she was being circled by a big shark and immediately (and understandably) reacted by hightailing it out of the water as fast as she could.

I don't blame her - sharks are some of the very few creatures in New Zealand capable of doing humans physical harm.

But I don't think they're something we should be letting scare us out of going for a swim at the beach.


Shark attacks in New Zealand are very rare.

Since records began, New Zealand has suffered 12 fatal shark attacks dating back to the 1850s. Twelve deaths in 160-ish years are odds I'm comfortable with.

At Bay beaches, sharks are common.

In summer there are always plenty of reports of swimmers encountering bronze whalers in the water.

Niwa says they live in shallow coastal waters during the summer - reefs, bays, estuaries and surf beaches - and are commonly seen this time of year for two main reasons: more people head for the beach in summer, and because they come into warmer waters to chase fish or give birth. They are not normally aggressive towards humans.

So, in other words, chances of a shark attack in the Bay are not high. There is a risk, but a small enough one to be almost insignificant.

You're far more likely to be hurt while in a car, yet I don't hear of many people afraid to get into cars for that reason.

It's good to have a healthy respect for nature, but it's no reason to let it prevent you enjoying the beauty on our doorstep.