Sep 30, 2018 I Robbie Graham

UFOs Around the World: New Zealand

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be conducting interviews with leading UFO researchers from countries around the world in an effort to paint a picture of global UFOlogy today.

This week, our global UFO trek takes us to New Zealand, and to Suzy Hansen, an author, researcher, experiencer, and former professional educationist. Suzy is the author of The Dual Soul Connection: The Alien Agenda for Human Advancement, with contributions by Dr. Rudy Schild, Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics, Harvard/Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA.

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Suzy Hansen.

Suzy is also the founding Director of the UFOCUS NZ Research Network (NZ UFO sightings), and coordinator of Communicator Link (advocacy & support for experiencers/abductees). She was instrumental in lobbying for the release of the NZ MoD UFO Files in 2010/11. She has been lecturing internationally for more than 20 years and has featured in numerous interviews, articles and documentaries.

RG: Who have been the defining figures in New Zealand UFOlogy over the past 70 years (for better or for worse), and why?

SH: The most active and prominent researchers in my opinion were Fred and Phyllis Dickeson, Harold Fulton, Harvey Cooke (all gone now), and currently, the Dickeson’s son Bryan and I guess—myself!

The Dickesons were former NZ air force personnel who worked tirelessly to publicise UFO sighting investigation data. They established nationwide discussion groups and published the UFO magazines Satcu and Xenolog. They also hosted well-known UFO personalities to NZ, including author Erich von Daniken and contactee George Adamski.

Bryan Dickeson investigated UFO sightings throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, and spoke at early New Zealand UFO conferences. He is also a trained regression therapist and investigated New Zealand's first publicised abduction experience. Bryan now resides in Australia and has contributed significantly to Australia’s UFO research too. He has recently digitised some 6,500 New Zealand UFO sightings from his parents’ research material, which will soon be available to the public on UFOCUS NZ’s website.

The late Harold Fulton was also ex-air force and investigated some of New Zealand’s most significant UFO events along with the other researchers I have mentioned. His focus was on aviation sightings and his data was meticulous and scientific.

The late Harvey Cooke was perhaps the “Mr Personality” of UFO research here, and, although he never had a UFO sighting himself, his passion and enthusiasm for the subject was endless. Harvey contributed significantly through TV and radio interviews, organising conferences, and he ran one of the world's longest-standing UFO groups for 55 years. His memory for names and dates was legendary.

RG: What do you consider to be the most compelling NZ UFO incident on record, and why?

SH: Without a doubt, the Kaikoura Lights sightings of 1978/79 are the most renowned NZ sightings. The two main sightings that occurred in December 1978/79 were captured on film, seen visually by pilots and a film crew onboard one of the flights, and appeared on Wellington Airport radar and the radar of the two Argosy aircraft involved. These anomalous lights were observed by many members of the public as well over a period of weeks.

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One of the objects filmed during the Kaikoura Lights incident of 1978/79.

The Kaikoura Lights events effectively divided New Zealand society, as scientific groups and governmental departments carried out an attempted whitewash of the main sightings, attributing ever more ludicrous explanations to the events: it was Venus! It was the lights of squid boats reflected off the bottom of clouds! It was the streetlights of townships reflecting off the breasts of mutton birds flying south! The radar was faulty! (Not true).

In 2007 I was made aware of a piece of 16 mm television news footage by former a TV1 cameraman who had kept the reel concealed for years. It was digitised, and he told me it could settle the debate and silence skeptics for good, because it revealed a large light that split into two lights, both of which disappeared at speed in different directions. The footage was taken at the Clarence River mouth, where many sightings took place near Kaikoura. Unfortunately however, the footage was sold for a five figure sum to a documentary company in the States and has never been revealed to the public.

Dr. Bruce Maccabee, US optical data analyst, carried out an analysis of the film crew’s footage, and considers the Kaikoura sightings to be in the top 10 worldwide.

RG: What is the NZ government’s official stance on UFOs? When was the last time it issued a statement on the subject?

SH: The New Zealand government has generally refrained from making official statements about the UFO subject, with the exception of the Kaikoura Lights sightings, which attracted the attention of Sir Robert Muldoon, Prime Minister at the time. However the MOD UFO files released in 2010/11 revealed that as a result of investigations into the Kaikoura Lights, a number of governmental departments were involved in researching the event, including the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Civil Aviation, Air Traffic Control, the Joint Intelligence Bureau, the Commissioner of Police, the Director of the New Zealand Meteorological Service, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), and the Director of Carter Observatory. Brief statements were made by government departments at this time in 1978/79. Any other official statements concerning the UFO topic have been made by the New Zealand Defence Force, the most recent being when the files were released.

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'The Beehive' in Wellington, NZ, home to the executive wing of the NZ parliament.

RG: Does the NZ Ministry of Defence have an official UFO investigations unit?

SH: In September 1985, Wing Commander S. B. White, on behalf of Air Vice Marshal Ewan Jamieson, stated that New Zealand's Ministry of defence has always claimed that it is not specifically charged with any formal responsibility for investigating UFOs, and neither is any other governmental Department, but that the Ministry does however take an active interest in all such reports and, within the limitations of its resources, conducts investigations as necessary.

However, the MOD UFO files revealed that although they did not have a funded UFO investigation unit, an official investigative committee was formed in the early-1970s and was disbanded in 1976. The members of this group included representatives of the Intelligence Service, the RNZAF, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Meteorological Service, Air Traffic Control, the Ministry of Transport and Carter Observatory. The outcome of their investigations suggested that they decided the UFO problem was a scientific matter rather than a threat to defence.

UFOCUS NZ’s archives contain a number of significant sighting events that witnesses state were investigated by the Air Force on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, including witness interviews, investigation of ground markings and other physical details, and photographs of specific areas. The witnesses state they were told by the air force representative that if they went to the media or spoke publicly about the investigations, the Air Force would deny all knowledge of it.  Some witnesses report feeling intimidated.

RG: Has the NZ government shown more or less transparency on the UFO subject than the US, Australian, and British governments?

SH: Officially, the New Zealand government has refrained from involvement in UFO related matters, instead leaving such statements to the Defence Forces, on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.

In a letter to me dated 28 April 2009, the New Zealand Chief of Defence Force, Lt Gen Jerry Maeparae stated, “in the longer term, recognising the ongoing public interest in this topic, I should like to see a summary of information held about UFO sightings produced, in much the same way as that which is produced by the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence. Given existing constraints however I cannot predict when that objective may be achieved.”

In December 2009, following a further several months of lobbying, I received a follow-up letter from Lt Gen Mateparae, which stated, “I am pleased to be able to inform you that two NZ DEF officers have become that the task of assessing classified files in relation to this topic, with a view of the classification.”

New Zealand is a small country with a population of less than 5 million with limited resources to investigate UFO sightings, and I believe, as evidenced by the Chief of Defence Force’s letters, that the New Zealand Government and Ministry of Defence have largely taken their lead from the US, Australia, and British governments in terms of limited transparency and information. It is important to note that the MOD files released in 2010/11 consisted of only the air force UFO files. There still exist unreleased Navy and Army files, and restricted intelligence files.

RG: Does NZ have a national UFO investigations organisation today, and how many smaller NZ UFO groups are you aware of?

SH: In 2000, after 25 years of independent UFO research, I established the UFO Focus New Zealand Research Network (UFOCUS NZ), a nationwide UFO reporting and investigation network. At present we have a staff of seven investigators throughout the country who gather UFO related information and investigate sightings in their areas. Our staff over the years has included to air-traffic controllers, a pilot, a scientist, and an astronomer. We have a particular interest in aviation sightings, as New Zealand has a rich history of aviation-related UFO sightings, with a number of pilots and air traffic controllers who have been willing to go public on their sightings. As a result of this, in December 2013, we signed a written agreement of cooperation with a Chilean aviation/military UFO investigation group to share data and sighting reports pertaining to aviation sightings, and sightings that occur around the time of seismic/volcanic activity. As previously mentioned, on behalf of UFOCUS NZ, I was instrumental in lobbying the New Zealand Chief of Defence Forces for the release of the New Zealand Air Force MOD UFO files in 2010/11.

From the 1950s through to the mid-90s there were a number of UFO groups throughout New Zealand, formed by some of the early veteran UFO researchers I have mentioned who liked UFOCUS NZ, actively investigated sighting reports. Throughout the '60s and '70s there were a significant number of UFO sightings in New Zealand, coinciding with the times of known UFO flaps worldwide. Today, UFOCUS NZ is the only active UFO sighting investigation and research group in New Zealand.

RG: What are the most active regions of NZ for UFO sighting reports (hotspots)?

SH: We receive UFO sighting reports from all around New Zealand, and of course the population distribution plays a part in how many reports we may receive from certain areas. New Zealand is a largely rural society, with large areas that are sparsely populated.

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Rural New Zealand.

Having said that, there are certain areas from which we have regularly received reports over the years, including the Central North Island volcanic plateau, the mysterious dome Valley north of Auckland, and the Kaipara Harbour where well-known New Zealand pilot and author Bruce Cathie observed a USO as he flew his DC3 transport plane over the harbour back in 1965. A significant number of UFO sightings were reported beginning just 10 days before the massive Christchurch earthquake in 2011, and continuing through to several weeks after the after-shocks had settled down.

However, the most prolific UFO sightings occurred in the Gisborne/East Cape area of the North island during what came to be known as the ‘Gisborne UFO flap’ of 1977 to 1980, and of course the Kaikoura Light sightings of 1978/79, which occurred over the northern end of the South Island.

Along with aviation sightings, UFOCUS NZ has a particular interest in sightings that occur around the time of seismic and volcanic activity in our country, which have been significant.

RG: Have you personally had any UFO sightings?

SH: Yes, I have had a number of UFO sightings, some of which I have documented in my book, The Dual Soul ConnectionAt age 8, in 1962, my family and I observed a long bright orange cigar-shaped light over a series of hills some 20 km away.  We watched the light for one and a half hours, during which time it flared and pulsed in the sky before eventually moving off south. It was sighted by hundreds of people that night, and was reported in our national newspaper. This event changed my life and I developed an intense interest in space, stars, and even aviation. My mind was blown by the fact that this was not a natural phenomenon or aircraft, therefore "something" had to be flying it!

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Suzy Hansen and her book, 'The Dual Soul Connection.'

In 1975 I was a young 20-year-old teacher working in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand. While driving home to the city from a rural farming area my friend and I observed an unusual light in the sky which at first we thought was a helicopter or agricultural aircraft. However, the light suddenly “switched off” and reappeared over the hills adjacent to us, before repeating sequence two more times. After a few seconds the light disappeared and, having stopped the car to watch, we felt we could continue our journey; but the light reappeared behind us. It approached our car at speed, a massive light wider than the road, and the last I recall is being blinded by the brilliant light, deafened by a loud noise, and feeling the car lifting off the road before I must have lost consciousness. My next memory is of the car hitting the road again, but now it was no longer in late afternoon sunshine, but in complete darkness. We had lost 90 minutes of time. This incident catapulted me headlong into UFO site investigation and contact research.

From 1978 to 1986 I lived in the Gisborne/East Cape area of the North Island during the time of the Gisborne UFO flap. While fishing at a remote beach on the Cape I observe a large green ball of light rise out of the water and fly over the nearby hills. On another occasion I saw a matte black egg-shaped object flying over a range of hills, and other witnesses reported the same object.

RG: How long have you been involved in the UFO subject; roughly how many cases have you personally investigated; and what conclusions, if any, have you drawn about the underlying nature of UFO phenomena?

SH: This is my 44th year of research into the UFO and contact phenomena, and there is no sign of the workload lessening, or my interest waning. I have investigated hundreds of sightings and talked with hundreds of witnesses and contactees/abductees/experiencers in New Zealand and worldwide—thousands if you count my internet interviews. Of those sightings investigated, some twenty three or so were in-depth investigations involving sightings of actual craft, and, in some cases, entities/occupants associated with the craft. Now, some people may doubt the validity of those cases, but it is interesting that the witnesses were scientists, medical workers, emergency staff, pilots, along with farmers and truck drivers, who we consider credible witnesses who know their environments well. These are not the kind of people to hoax events or seek notoriety. It is through talking with these high calibre witnesses that one understands the enormity of the subject, the importance of critical thinking in investigation, the potential impact of possible contact in our future, and the extent to which these events changed the witnesses’ lives and worldviews forever.

My own sightings and experiences have led me to recognise there is a long-term agenda at play where UFO sightings are concerned. Although many sightings may be brief and random, those that are more in-depth, as I have described above, confirm my thoughts that just as many sightings and contacts are “by design,” meaning they occurred for a reason or purpose controlled by the occupants of the UFOs and this is evident in the way the events effect many witnesses, and in the prior sightings or paranormal incidents they often divulge to an investigator in the course of interviews. Of course, not all sightings are welcomed by witnesses, but there is much to be learned scientifically, socially, psychologically etc. from their descriptions.

Science is now validating the physics behind the descriptions UFO witnesses and experiencers have recounted for decades, and of course we now know there are plenty of habitable planets out there with similar attributes to Earth. I think it is only a matter of time until we truly understand why we have been observing “intruders” in our planetary airspace for decades, if not centuries and beyond. It could be that “disclosure” will occur under someone else’s timeline and control, not our own. As theoretical physicist Michio Kaku has said, we are not yet a united planetary civilisation, let alone an intergalactic civilisation prepared to meet our cosmic neighbours.

RG: How can NZ UFOlogy better itself?

SH: Well we are constantly working on this, and we continue to remain open-minded, but utilise critical thinking in investigations and research. Don’t be afraid to approach scientists and professionals for assistance and advice, and defer to greater knowledge (UFOCUS NZ utilises the skills of a number of professionals in our investigations). We should always do our homework. Keep abreast of worldwide research and network widely. Keep lobbying the MOD for further UFO files. And maintain a public profile.

For more information about New Zealand UFO research, visit: UFOCUS NZ. Suzy Hansen's book describing her own personal UFO experiences is available here.

Robbie Graham
Robbie Graham has lectured around the world on the UFO subject and has been interviewed for the BBC, Coast to Coast AM, Canal+ TV, Channel 4, and Vanity Fair, among many others. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including The Guardian, New Statesman, Filmfax, and Fortean Times. He holds first class degrees in Film, Television and Radio Studies (BA hons) and Cinema Studies (MA) from Staffordshire University and the University of Bristol respectively. He is the author of Silver Screen Saucers: Sorting Fact from Fantasy in Hollywood’s UFO Movies (White Crow Books, 2015) and the editor of UFOs: Reframing the Debate (White Crow Books, 2017). Visit

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