A diver chased a thieving octopus underwater off the Wellington coast for more than five minutes to retrieve his new digital camera.

Wellington man Victor Huang was diving near the Wahine Memorial between Breaker Bay and Moa Point on Wednesday when he spotted the octopus.

The Weta digital animator swam closer to get a better picture of the octopus when it suddenly grabbed his camera with one of its tentacles and swam off, Fairfax media reported.

Mr Huang gave chase and caught up with the thief while the camera was still recording.

With the help of a speargun placed beneath the octopus, he managed to wrench the camera free from the creature's mouth.

However, the octopus grabbed the speargun and refused to let go, Mr Huang said.

He swum around a bit with the octopus in tow and as he neared the shore, the octopus let go.

Mr Huang moved to Wellington from San Francisco six years ago to work on animation in the King Kong movie, and said he had fallen in love with the lifestyle in New Zealand.

- NZPA