Surfers bravely fought off a three-metre shark attacking a fellow surfer and pulled him to the beach.
However, he later died from savage bites to his leg, police reported on Sunday.
The man, believed to be 60 years old and from neighbouring state of Queensland, was treated on the beach for serious injuries to his left leg but police said he died at the scene.
Nearby beaches were cleared of swimmers and surfers while helicopters tried to find the shark.
A large great white was spotted and followed for some distance as it cruised the beaches.
The beaches are closed for 24 hours while police and fisheries officials investigate the circumstances surrounding the death.
“Unfortunately there was nothing else we could do,” Savage said.
He described the two men who fought off the shark and helped the man to shore as “amazing”.
“(It was) nothing short of heroic to get him in to the beach,” he said.
Local surf club member James Owen said the death was a “terrible tragic event”.
“It’s a bit of a shock for everyone at the moment.
“There’s a very sombre mood here. I don’t know of a previous fatal shark incident in this area.
Kingscliff local Stuart Gonsal told ABC he had just arrived at the beach to surf when police were calling people out of the water.
“A lot of people were still stuck out the back there. It took a while to get all the people out of the water,” Gonsal said.
He said there had been plenty of fish in local waters recently and a lot of fishing boats were out on the water.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)