Graphic designer Cole Jamieson knows what he saw on March 30 wasn’t a plane. He and his partner were driving over the Maungatapu bridge at 7.30pm when they saw three bright white lights, all the same size, height and evenly spaced over downtown Tauranga.
“They were much bigger than plane lights, more like large spotlights from a helicopter, but brighter,” Mr Jamieson said.
“There were no other lights, no coloured or blinking lights like all aircraft are required to have. Both me and my partner saw the lights and we both knew what we saw wasn’t normal.”
Mr Jamieson drove into the city to see if he could work out what they were but by the time they got there the lights had gone. He has since driven over the bridge at the same time of night to see if they were from something explainable – like Devonport Towers – but said the ones he saw were too high to be a building.
He has since done a lot of searching on the internet and found many cases have been reported worldwide recently, including one that appears to take off from the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine in Jerusalem.
“There’s been a huge increase worldwide,” Mr Jamieson said.
“The Fox and ABC networks are always having stories on them at the moment.”
Tony Wilson of Papamoa and his family saw strange lights on Monday and Tuesday nights this week.
The family’s curtains were being cleaned so Mr Wilson’s wife was able to see into the southwest sky and point out to the rest of the family what initially looked like a flickering star.
But then it had started moving erratically.
“It was predominantly silver but you could see flashes of red and occasionally blue and silver,” Mr Wilson said.
It had looked as though it was above the Kaimais, he said, but eventually faded out.
“When I saw it again on Tuesday I was starting to think it was a planet but planets don’t move spasmodically so I’m not sure what it was,” Mr Wilson said.
“I’m certainly not a UFO nut but I would put it in the UFO category.”
Another Papamoa man told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend about what he had seen on the night of April 4 on the condition he wasn’t named.
He said he saw two lights hovering in the sky out at sea that began moving erratically before disappearing into the distance.
UFO research group UFOCUS New Zealand, which is based in Tauranga, files reports of UFO sightings on its website.
There is one Western Bay sighting from this year.
It was reported as an orange ball of light spotted from Pyes Pa at 9.30pm on February 19, travelling from the port to Oropi.
“The object was the size of the witness’ index fingernail at arm’s length, was travelling at helicopter speed, and appeared to be above the cloud.
“There was no strobe light as there would be on a helicopter,” the report said.
“There was no light reflecting off the clouds from the object, and it was lost to view behind the clouds.”
Vicki Hyde, spokeswoman for the New Zealand Skeptics, said unexplained lights could often be explained by science.
“About 80-90 per cent of everything unusual can be explained … but that doesn’t mean the other 10-20 per cent is aliens. It just means these things haven’t been able to be explained.
“People sometimes jump to the UFO conclusion too quickly … more often than not these things are reflections or helium balloons that go behind a tree or a cloud,” she said.
Ms Hyde said sometimes people didn’t talk about seeing lights for fear of being laughed at.
“I don’t think people who see strange lights in the sky should be ridiculed. They’re not idiots. They’re just seeing something they cannot explain and they’re curious about it so I think it’s good they speak up.”
However, she was quick to explain a strange light didn’t necessarily mean aliens were looking down on us.
“Until aliens land in front of the Beehive and say, ‘Take me to your leader’, then I am not convinced because I don’t believe they would travel to Earth and play silly buggers with us.”