Prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford, who presents a TV fishing show, had been helping a cameraman shoot footage for a programme titled Young Ocean Explorers when some bronze whaler sharks approached.
He was acting as “swimming safety”, or keeping watch, to allow the cameraman to film bottle-nosed dolphins and false killer whales off Great Barrier Island near Auckland.
The dolphins were “feeding on kingfish and had been tearing some large ones in half and putting blood in the water, which attracted several large bronze whaler sharks”, Mr Gayford said.
“I got in the water and they turned their attention on me,” he added.
“I had to fend the large one pictured off with a pole several times, as it was getting quite agitated.
“We got out not long after.”
He later tweeted an annotated picture showing a dolphin nearby, saying: “So it turns out that not only do Dolphins not help, they actually quite like watching.
“A childhood myth is ruined.”
Encounters with sharks are not new for Mr Gayford. In March, he tweeted another picture of himself with an “overly amorous whale shark” which “pinned” him “against a boat”.
He and Ms Ardern are expecting a baby on 17 June, after which Mr Gayford will swap his fishy adventures for the role of stay-at-home dad.
Ms Ardern is expected to take six weeks of maternity leave before returning to New Zealand’s top job.