By CHARLIE GATES
Hundreds of pages of secret files on New Zealand UFO sightings will be released by the military this year.
The files include reports of UFO sightings from 1979 to 1984 and references to the Kaikoura sighting of December 1978.
The files are held by Archives New Zealand and were to have been made public this month, but the Defence Force is removing personal information from them to comply with the Privacy Act.
"At the moment we are working on making copies of these files, minus the personal information," a Defence Force spokeswoman said. "Once this work is completed, we are hoping to be able to release a copy of all the UFO files, including some ahead of their release time, within the year."
Lights were seen in the sky over Kaikoura in December 1978 and were filmed by an Australian news crew. Aircraft tracked the lights, which were also seen on radar.
A man who worked for the Transport Ministry's civil aviation division when the Kaikoura lights were seen said he would like to see the government files.
The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he was working at Christchurch International Airport at the time. He saw United States Air Force planes with unusual call signs touring the area and believes the full story about the lights has not been disclosed.
"For the US Air Force to come all that way and spend three days here, there must have been something going on," he said.
The Press sought any Defence Force files on UFO sightings under the Official Information Act in August last year.
The Defence Force said the request "would require a substantial amount of collation, research and consultation to identify whether any of that information could be released" and it was "not in a position to deploy staff to undertake that task".
It said public files on UFO sightings were available from Archives New Zealand.
The Press requested access to those files from Archives New Zealand, but was not able to see them as they had been borrowed by the Defence Force.
The director of research group UFOCUS NZ, Suzanne Hansen, said she was frustrated by the delayed release but understood the privacy reasons.
"We have been in discussion with the New Zealand Defence Force for many years ... It is frustrating from a research perspective because we would like to collate these sightings with international research."
She said some sightings could have been alien technology. "There are cases that are certainly not our technology. It has been scientifically proven that this is entirely possible."
New Zealand Skeptics chairwoman Vicki Hyde said the secret files would not be as interesting as they appeared. "Governments all around the world have these kind of files and they are not as exciting as you might possibly hope.
"The Government is required to log these things and it can give a false impression that there is a vast amount of activity out there.
"There is probably intelligent life elsewhere, but whether it has come here to play silly buggers with us in a game of cosmic hide and seek is another matter.
"It is a big jump from `there was something in the sky and I don't know what it was' to `that was a craft piloted by aliens'."
She said most sightings could be of mundane things such as satellites and flocks of birds.
To see UFO pictures from across New Zealand, visit press.co.nz. If you have any UFO stories or pictures, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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