Beaches on Auckland's west coast reopened this afternoon following yesterday's fatal shark attack except Muriwai, which will remain closed until Saturday.

Adam Strange, 46, was savaged by a shark, thought to be a 3.5m great white, while swimming at the popular beach west of Auckland just before 1.30pm yesterday.

All west coast beaches were initially closed but Auckland Council has announced their call to reopen them with the exception of Muriwai, a decision made with police, Surf Life Saving Northern Region and the Department of Conservation.

Although the chances of a shark attack like yesterday's are very low, Surf Life Saving has some guidelines in place.


"Leave the water immediately if a shark is sighted or if advised by the Lifeguards that a shark has been sighted. If you sight a shark yourself make sure you alert others," said Surf Life Saving Northern Region lifesaving and club support manager Tom Burgess.

Swimmers are urged to swim between the red and yellow flags and to always obey the advice of Surf Lifeguards.

While Burgess said it was natural for people to be nervous about getting in the water, there were a few general rules that could help reduce the risk of an attack.

"Swimmers should avoid entering the water after dusk, at night or before dawn when some sharks are typically more active. You should also avoid swimming in, or near, murky or silt-laden waters or near schools of fish. Never swim or surf alone and, of course, one of our key safety messages is always - if in doubt, stay out," he said.

Mayor Len Brown said the tragedy at Muriwai has touched the hearts of Aucklanders.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Adam Strange and also with the people of Muriwai, who have rallied to support each other through this time," he said.

"In the coming weeks, we will talk more about our preparedness to deal with rare incidents like this, but for now we must let the families have some privacy and allow our Lifeguards and park rangers to continue with their good work."

Surf Life Saving said they have sought expert advice from their Australian counterparts and from the Department of Conservation's shark expert.