On the 3rd of August, 1985, researcher Timothy Good wrote to the Air Vice Marshal Ewan Jamieson, Chief of the Air Staff, at the Ministry of Defence Headquarters, Wellington, New Zealand, asking what the New Zealand military’s official stance on UFOs was. In a 6th of September, 1985 reply to Good, Wing Commander S. D. White, writing on behalf of Air Vice Marshal Ewan Jamieson, stated:
“New Zealand’s Ministry of Defence is not specifically charged with any formal responsibility for investigating UFOs… …and neither is any other government department. The Ministry does however take an active interest in all such reports and within the limitations of its resources conducts investigations as necessary.”
This official statement, and quite a few others like it, was somewhat misleading.
In March, 2017, I accessed Archives New Zealand, which is that country’s official national archive and records repository, and entered a series of keywords into the “Archway” search engine. Using the keywords “unidentified flying object”, “ufo”, “unidentified flying objects”, “ufos”, “unknown object”, “unknown objects”, “flying saucers” and the like, I was surprised to see numerous hits displayed in the results. Of course, New Zealand’s government has already released numerous files, so any search results which included these items were expected. What I didn’t expect was a listing of hitherto unknown files, some of which are “restricted” from public access for decades to come. I should state that these unreleased files were not totally unknown to at least a handful of researchers. British based researcher Isaac Koi, for example, discussed the existence of these records some time ago on the internet forum Above Top Secret, and Keith Basterfield mentioned some of the items in various New Zealand focused blogposts in 2010.
Before elaborating on these unseen files, it is prudent to summarise New Zealand’s first, and only, declassification and public release of government files, and, specifically, how they were released. In December, 2010, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), who operate under, and answer to, New Zealand’s Ministry of Defence (MOD), released a number of formally classified files concerning UFO’s. Only through the determined work of Susan Hansen, the Director of New Zealand’s “UFO Focus New Zealand Research Network” (UFOCUS NZ), a civilian based research organisation, did this release occur. Hansen had worked for some fourteen months, corresponding with Lt. Gen. Jerry Mateparae, the Chief of Defence Force, NZDF, regarding the mustering, declassification and public release of New Zealand’s MOD files, some which were nearly sixty years old.
Initially, Lt. Gen. Mateparae stated that it “…would require a substantial amount of collation, research and consultation to identify whether any of that information could be released…” and that the NZDF was not able to deploy staff to undertake the task. Lt. Gen. Jerry Mateparae, however, also gave his personal viewpoint on the matter, stating:
“In the longer term, recognizing the ongoing public interest in this topic, I would 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 Ministry of Defence. Given the existing constraints, however, I cannot predict when that objective could be achieved.”
Months later, due largely to Susan Hansen’s continued efforts, Lt. Gen. Mateparae announced that the assessing of classified UFO files by NZDF staff had begun. In a December, 2009 letter, Lt. Gen. Mateparae stated:
“I am pleased to be able to inform you that two NZDF officers have begun the task of assessing classified files held in relation to this topic, with a view to declassification. I would expect that files which are transferred to Archives New Zealand would be subject to extensive embargo periods in terms of access by the general public.”
It was on the 22nd of December, 2010, that the NZDF finally made available nine files, which totalled 2101 pages. The files contained records dating from, at the earliest, 1952, and, most recently, 2009. Specifically, the files released were “Air 39/3/3 Volume 1, Parts 1 and 2”, “Flying Saucers”, with a date range spanning 1952 to 1955; “Air 39/3/3 Volume 2, Parts 1 & 2, “Reports on UFOs”, with a date range spanning 1956 to 1979; “Air 39/3/3 Volume 3”, “Reports on UFOs”, with a date range spanning 1979 to 1980; “Air 39/3/3A Volume 1, Parts 1 and 2”, “Reports on UFOs and Ethnology”, with a date range of 1979 to 1984; “Air 39/3/3 Volume 4”, “Reports on UFOs”, covering 1981 to 1984; “Air 244/10/1 Volume 1”, “Reports on UFOs” with a date range spanning 1959 to 1983; “Air 1080/6/897 Volume 1”, “Courts Of Enquiry – Investigation of Unidentified and Radar Sightings East Coast South Island December 1978”, with a date range spanning from 1978 to 1981; “1630/2 Volume 1”, “Reports on UFOs and Ethnology”, with a date range spanning 1984 to 1989; and, “1630/2 Volume 2”, “Reports on UFOs and Ethnology” with a date range spanning 1990 to 2009. Also worth mentioning is that some of the material in these files was redacted, and thus not visible.
While I do not attempt here to give any sort of detailed, historical treatment as to what these papers contain, it is worth mentioning that most of the records are UFO reports, of variable value, submitted by members of New Zealand’s public, and, general enquiries regarding the New Zealand government’s official stance on the UFO issue.
Most, but certainly not all.
A significant fraction of the material, in fact, comprises of internal government correspondence and enquiry, and it is most certainly not all MOD–generated. Firstly, the material that is of MOD provenance includes papers originating from such entities as the Secretary of Defence; the Minister of Defence; the Chief of the Defence Staff; the Chief of the Air Staff, RNZAF; Headquarters, Air Defence, RNZAF; the Deputy Director of Air Intelligence, RNZAF; the Director of Operations, RNZAF; and the Deputy Director of Service Intelligence, to name a few. Secondly, the material on file which is not of MOD provenance, includes papers originating from such entities as the Director of Civil Aviation, Civil Aviation Branch, Air Department; the Minister for Civil Aviation; the Deputy Director of Operations, Air Traffic Control, Ministry of Transport; the Director–General of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research; the Joint Intelligence Bureau; the Commissioner of Police, Police National Headquarters; the Director of the New Zealand Meteorological Service; and the Director of Carter Observatory.
Thus, it is established that numerous areas within New Zealand’s government, as demonstrated in these nine released MoD files, have had at least some involvement in the UFO problem. What, then, can we ascertain regarding the unreleased files? And how can they be declassified and released? All government files held by Archives New Zealand are indexed with metadata, which includes the title of the file, an item identification number, a code attached to the original controlling agency, a series number, an accession code, a box and item number, a record number, and various other pieces of information. Also, all files are listed as either being “Open Access”, “Restricted Access” or “Restrictions May Apply”. Unsurprisingly, an “Open Access” file can be made available to anyone, while a “Restricted Access” file is still in the legal custody of the original controlling agency, and, thus, unavailable. Such “Restricted Access” files are listed with a “Restrictions Expire” date which must be surpassed before automatic availability can occur. Steps can be taken, however, to have such files assessed and released earlier. Finally, files where “Restrictions May Apply” are releasable, but a final review of the item is required in case it contains sensitivities not noticed previously. These issues are important when evaluating the numerous unreleased UFO files listed within the Archives.
The first file of note, which should have been released in 2010, is titled “Intelligence – Defence – Unidentified Sightings”. The record number for this item is “244/1/7” and the date range spans from 1963 to 1976. The current controlling agency of the file is the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), but the original controlling agency, presumably, will be either a top–echelon division of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), or, one of New Zealand’s armed forces branches. Traditionally, New Zealand’s defence apparatus has, like most nations, always included an Army, Navy and Air Force. Either way, the file metadata gives no clue as to its origin. Moreover, as noted, this file is clearly a MoD item of some sort, and the NZDF is listed as the most recent controlling entity, so the notion that the NZDF released all of its UFO files in 2010 is quite incorrect. Having said that, the file is listed as “Open Access”, so someone in the NZDF has cleared it for release.
Another unseen file is titled “Political Affairs – Outer Space – Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs)” is indexed as originating from the Head Office of the New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). The record number is “NYP 3/58/13”, and the date range spans from 1977 to 1982. Thankfully, this particular item, unlike many, is classed as “Open Access”, which means copies can be made available with relative ease. MFAT represents New Zealand abroad, and conducts official communication and business with foreign governments, international organisations and other overseas bodies. One can only speculate as to what an MFAT file may contain. One possibility, given the 1977 to 1982 date range, is that the records relate to a UFO awareness raising initiative at the United Nations, led by Sir Eric Gairy, the then Prime Minister of Grenada, in the late 1970’s. This effort resulted in a series of plenary meetings and decision adoptions in late 1977, which culminated in a Special Political Committee Hearing on the 27th of November, 1978. Finally, “Political Affairs – Outer Space – Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs)” is listed as “Part 1”. This usually means, as can be demonstrated with other file holdings, that further “parts” were created, or at least planned for.
New Zealand’s atmospheric and meteorological agencies maintained UFO–related files too, The first item is titled, “Meteorological Office: Research: Meteorological – Unidentified Flying Objects”, and its record number is “42/6/23”. The date range of this file is 1968 to 1984. The originating and controlling agency for this file is the Head Office of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Limited (NIWAR). This quasi–government entity is described, in government organisational chronologies, as a “…Crown owned research and consulting company with expertise in water and atmospheric research”. The file is listed as “Open Access”. This is interesting, as the NIWAR was engaged in meteorological and atmospheric study, so any evaluation or assessment of the UFO issue by competent scientists is obviously valuable to researchers. Also, like other New Zealand UFO files, this item is listed as being “Part 1”, which implies a continuation of the file well beyond the mid–1980’s. No more “parts”, however, are listed when performing archival searches. As for the contents, one hopes that NIWAR conducted a reasonable degree of primary research into the UFO issue, possibly studying unknown cases, and dealing directly with other New Zealand agencies. More likely, however, is that the file contains low–level sighting reports, collections of local newspaper articles, and other mundane items. Previous experience suggests the contents of “Meteorological Office: Research: Meteorological – Unidentified Flying Objects” is somewhere in the middle.
Another file, presumably of the same ilk, is “Public Weather Service – Flying Saucers And Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs)”. The record number is “2/13”, and the date range is 1956 to 1988. The controlling agency for the file is the New Zealand Meteorological Service (NZMS), but judging by the title of the file, it was specifically a Public Weather Service (PWS) record. The PWS was one of three sub–components of the NZMS. Government organisational chronologies state that the primary function of the NZMS was to “…provide and advise meteorological support… …for New Zealand and the islands of the South Pacific Ocean”. The file is “Open Access”, and does not appear to be one of several “Parts” as is often the case. One can only guess what the file contains, but it is quite likely that the PWS, and its parent agency, the NZMS, acted as a clearing house for UFO reports, as was the situation in Australia. Historically, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) received UFO reports from the public, and occasionally from other government agencies. The BOM was not explicitly charged with handling UFO cases, so, typically, they would be forwarded to the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) or the Department of Air (DOA). Whatever the contents, “Public Weather Service – Flying Saucers And Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs)” will contain records not seen for decades.
The infamous Kaikoura UFO incident is the subject of a file titled “Miscellaneous Files – UFO [Unidentified Flying Object] Affair (1978 Kaikoura Incident) –The Truth Is Out There”. With a one year date range of 1979 to 1979, the file was the provenance of the Magnetic and Geophysical Observatories, based in Christchurch, and the controlling agency is listed similarly as the Geophysical Observatory. This agency is indexed as “…undertaking research into upper atmosphere physics through data collected from remote ionosonde stations…”. Oddly, there is no record number assigned to the file. Its access status is “Open”. Obviously it deals with the “Kaikoura Lights” radar–visual UFO case that occurred between the 21st and 30th of December, 1978. These events involved airborne–visual and airborne radar features, plus ground–based radar confirmation. Some of the events were filmed by an Australian television crew on route to New Zealand. The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), as well as Carter Observatory, investigated the events in early 1979. Their efforts can be found in New Zealand’s most in–depth and classified UFO file, which was released, in part, in 2010. That file is titled “Courts Of Enquiry – Investigation of Unidentified and Radar Sightings East Coast South Island December 1978”. Ultimately, the visual sightings were attributed to lights mounted on squid boats which were presumed to be reflecting off low cloud cover, as well as a handful of bright stars and planets. The primary radar hits were attributed to spurious returns created by unusually intense atmospheric conditions at the time. Whatever the conclusions, it is apparent that the newly found “Miscellaneous Files – UFO [Unidentified Flying Object] Affair (1978 Kaikoura Incident) –The Truth Is Out There” has not been openly studied.
There are three files of New Zealand Police, National Headquarters provenance. They are, “37/21/1, Part 1”, “Support Services – Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO), General”; “37/19/3, Part 1”, “Support Services – Unidentified Flying Objects – General”; and “37/21/1, Part 1”, “Support Services – Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO), General”. All three files come with a date range spanning the year of 1972 only. The fact that all three files appeared to be nearly identical made me wonder if, in fact, just one file existed, and there had been a clerical error in listing it. However, each file does a unique record number, so each file must be unique.Access to these records is restricted until 2072.
As for the contents of these files, one can only speculate. It is possible that they relate to a series of space debris re–entries which occurred near the town of Ashburton, on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island in early 1972. As is widely known, several metal “space balls” were recovered by farmers in the region, and naturally a few federal agencies, including the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) and the Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB), showed significant interest in the discoveries, primarily from a technical and safety. Ultimately, the objects proved to be titanium gas pressure vessels from the Soviet Cosmos 482 spacecraft. American agencies, including the State Department, the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the United States Air Force’s (USAF) Foreign Technology Division (FTD) were equally as interested, and designated the events as “Moon Dust” unknown, or, initially unidentifiable, crashed space junk. These agencies relied on the United ’States small Defence Attaché in Wellington (USDAO–WEL) and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) for their information, some of which has been released under America’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to researchers. What was less known is that the New Zealand Police were involved in handling the downed space junk. In an 15th of January, 2011 article, titled “Government Report On ‘Space Balls’ Released”, authored by Charlie Gates for “The Press” section of an online news service known loosely as “Stuff”, farmer Denis O’Sullivan, who found one of the objects, is quoted as saying:
“I picked it up and carried it back to the truck. It was sitting on my lap in the truck on the way back to the farm. We called the police and the first thing they did was get everyone to stay away from the scene and then a policeman hung his wristwatch over it to see if it was radioactive. I thought, ‘It’s a bit late for that, it has been sitting on my lap on the way back’… …We thought it was an April Fool’s joke to start with. The police came and took it away. It caused quite a stir at the time. They treated it with great care because they were afraid it was radioactive.”
Possibly related to the above Police holdings is a file titled “Unidentified Objects of Foreign Origin”. The record number is “48/65/2” and the date range is listed as 1972 to 1973. Also, the file is listed as “Part 1”. This implies that there may be more “parts” to this file, but none are listed in the Archival system.
Also, the file is falls in a “Defence Documents” accession category, and is a considered “Restrictions May Apply” item. Importantly, the agency responsible for creating this file was the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). The DSIR provided scientific and technical services to the New Zealand government before being dissolved and reorganised in 1992. It is likely that this file relates to the 1972 space debris re–entries discussed previously. Both the date range and the title of the file are the two main giveaways. Moreover, we know that the DSIR was involved in assessing pieces of crashed space junk shortly after they were discovered. DSIR’s involvement in space debris analysis came to light in the New Zealand press, but also through documents released by America’s Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and State Department. These two agencies produced “Moon Dust” and “UFO” reports which were released in the late 1970’s through America’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). For example, a Confidential 24th of October, 1973, State Department signal, sent from the US embassy in Wellington to the Secretary of State (SECSTATE), reads, in part:
“PRESS STORY DATED OCTOBER 20 SPECULATES THAT CYLINDRICAL OBJECT FOUND NEAR KUROW, NEW ZEALAND MAY BE LINKED TO SPHERES REPORTED REF B. PRESS DESCRIPTION, BASICALLY CONFIRMED BY DSIR, IS THAT OBJECT IS TWO FEET LONG AND SEVEN INCHES DIAMETER. EXTENSIVELY SCARRED BY HEAT AND PARTS APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN BLOWN OUT BY INTERIOR EXPLOSION. ONE END BOLTED TO MAIN COMPONENT BY AT LEAST TWENTY FOUR BOLTS AROUND PERIMETER OF SCALLOPED FLANGE. THERE IS OPEN CONICAL PROJECTION AT THIS END WITH TWO SMALLER ATTACHMENTS WHICH APPARENTLY WERE CONNECTED TO OTHER UNITS. DSIR CHRISTCHURCH STUDYING OBJECT AND WILL FORWARD TO DSIR WELLINGTON ABOUT OCTOBER 31. EMBOFF HAS BEEN INVITED EXAMINE OBJECT AND OBTAIN DSIR PRELIMINARY REPORT AT THAT TIME.”
If “Unidentified Objects of Foreign Origin” is not related to crashed space junk, then one is bound to ask if the file relates to debris from a downed aircraft of unknown origin, or a meteoric event. Failing those alternatives, the only thing remaining is something even more mysterious.
Yet another file which presumably relates to unexpected space re–entries, is “Administration File – Unidentified Flying Object Seen To Explode In Western Sky”. The record number is “0070/3” and the date range is 1983 to 1983. The controlling agency is listed as the Timaru Police Department. The title of the file would indicate something along the lines of a meteoric bolide or space debris re–entry. The date range, however, certainly rules out in relationship to the 1970’s space junk events. Failing something space borne, an unsolved aircraft explosion could be the subject of the file, though one would assume that New Zealand’s Director of Civil Aviation would be in control of the file, not the Timaru Police Department. Unfortunately, the item is categorised as “Restricted Access”, so obtaining a copy will be slow, if possible at all.
Going beyond the files I have thus far highlighted, there may be far more material held by New Zealand’s government not readily obvious to the researcher. If the experience in the United States is anything to go by, there is every possibility that important UFO records will be found in non–UFO files. To be sure, researchers in America are now accessing 1940’s and 1950’s–era military records which are indexed under “unidentified aircraft reports”, “unknown aircraft reports”, “intelligence sightings”, “security sightings”, “foreign aircraft”, “aerial weapons” and so forth. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in Washington DC, and the United States Air Force’s (USAF) Air Force History and Research Agency (AFHRA), in Alabama, literally contain hundreds of the thousands of pages of such records, which are shelved in the operational or intelligence sections of squadron or wing–level holdings. The vast majority of these records, of course, have absolutely nothing to do with UFO’s, and are merely reports foreign or hostile aircraft, along with varying administrative assessments, security evaluations and other clerical material. However, a small percentage of these records, which still equates to thousands of pages, most certainly contain papers which would be considered UFO–related.
Even a very basic search of New Zealand’s archives contain possible leads. For example, a file titled “Northern Military District Auckland – Air And Naval Co–Operation Sighting Reports And Unidentified Aircraft – Aircraft Call Signs” would be a potential source of UFO reports or evaluation. Its record number of the file is “DAZ 205/9/S/4”. No date range is listed. The original controlling agency was the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and the is part of a large collection of records described as “Unit War Diaries, Unit Records and Supplementary Material”. Further, this collection was “…collected by the New Zealand Army Archives Section during the Second World War…”. Its access status is listed as “Open”.
Of possibly more interest are two Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) files created during World War Two. Their titles are “Intelligence – Intelligence re Aircraft – Reports Of Suspicious Sightings – March 1942 – August 1943” and “Intelligence – Intelligence re Aircraft – Reports of Suspicious Sightings – August 1942 – November 1944”. Both have the same record number, which is “08/19/1”, so, thus, presumably make up “Part 1” and “Part 2” of essentially the same file. The date range of both items is 1942 to 1944, and their access status is listed as “Open”. The controlling agency is simply listed as “Navy Department”. However, the files are part of a group of records described as “…sensitive Navy general correspondence” related to “…operations intelligence, personnel, security and the defence of New Zealand…”. Whether these items contain any UFO–related records, be they actual sighting reports or intelligence assessments, is entirely unknown, but it would be no surprise whatsoever if UFO’s were mentioned in some capacity.
As I highlighted at the beginning of this report, I highlighted a statement made by Wing Commander S. D. White to British researcher Timothy Good. Wing Commander White stated that the Ministry of Defence was “…not specifically charged with any formal responsibility for investigating UFOs…” and “…neither is any other government department…”. This is only partially correct. It is true that New Zealand’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), nor any other government department, did not run a largescale and properly funded UFO investigation desk, but there was, for example, an official investigative committee formed in the early 1970’s. Released in 2010, “Air 244/10/1 Volume 1”, “Reports on UFOs” contains dozens of pages of administrative memoranda penned by a group called the “Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) Investigating Committee”. The scientific and technical calibre of the group speaks for itself. In August, 1972, for instance, the Chairman of the committee was the MoD’s Deputy Director of Service Intelligence, and the Secretary was a RNZAF Squadron Leader. The members included Dr E. I. Robertson, the Director–General of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR); Dr. D. C. Thompson, of the Meteorological Service; Squadron Leader A. H. Milestone, the Deputy Director of Operations, Air Traffic Control, within the Ministry of Transport; and Mr. W. J. H. Fisher, the Director of Carter Observatory. So the notion that no one within the MoD was charged with UFO investigation was misleading. It must be said that the committee never really found hard evidence for UFO’s, but that’s not the point. Rather, the group maintained a passing interest, and decided the problem was a loosely scientific matter, rather than a specific defence problem. The committee was wound up on November 4th, 1976.
As I have painstakingly aimed to elaborate on, a significant number of unseen UFO files have come to light, and some of them were maintained by agencies not known to be involved at all. The question now is one of access. On the 6th of April, 2017, I emailed the New Zealand Archives with a list of files I was interested in. On the 21st of April, 2017, Research Services Archivist Nik MacDonald–Washburn, replied, and explained the process and costs associated with file retrieval, censoring and digitisation, some of which is fairly straightforward. Unfortunately, many of the files remain in the legal custody of the original controlling agency, or whoever inherited them. Files indexed as “Restrictions May Apply” or “Restricted” need to be carefully looked at, and the researcher is tasked with approaching each individual agency to ask what can and can’t be released. This, like most government documents research, will be a slow process. The lesson learned here, yet again, is that no matter where researchers look, there are seemingly always hitherto unknown records, often classified, languishing on government shelves.