Witnesses saw Adam Strange, 46, fighting the approximately 14 foot shark.
"All of a sudden there was blood everywhere," Pio Mose, who was fishing at the beach told the Associated Press. "I was shaking, scared, panicked."
Pio said he yelled at him to swim to the beach, but it was too late.
"He raised his hand up, and while he was doing it we saw another attack," said Pio.
Shawn Rutene, a Police Inspector said that Strange was about 650 feet offshore when the shark attacked.
"Our team discovered the body and discovered the shark was still there," said Tim Jago of the Muriwai Surf Life Saving Club. "It was a case of standing out for awhile, until we got a plan in place."
Police went out in the water in boats and shot at the shark. When they saw the shark roll over and disappear they believe they had killed it. Other sharks were in the water, and after distracting them the rescuers were able to recover Strange's body.
Although they do not know the species of the shark, Clinton Duffy said that great white sharks frequent that area of New Zealand. Although they are common in the region, attacks are rare.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time they ignore people," Duffy said.
Strange won an award for best short film at the Berlin Film Festival in 2009. He was married with one child, and his wife was there when they brought Strange's body to shore.