‘Flaming’ UFO Sighted Across Central North Island,1995

Multiple Witnesses Sightings, Bay of Plenty and Waikato Regions

By Suzanne Hansen, Graeme Opie, & Brendon Humphries,
UFOCUS NZ Research Network, New Zealand

Copyright © S. Hansen, G. Opie, & B. Humphries, Revised August 2008


Over the last sixty years, numerous UFO sightings have occurred around the coastal areas of the Bay of Plenty, North Island, NZ, especially around Mayor and Motiti Islands, Tauranga Harbour, and the active volcano, White Island. Sightings have been observed both above and beneath the sea in an area extending some 30 km off the mainland between these islands. Veteran NZ UFO researchers, as well as local witnesses of these highly strange events have long speculated on the significance of these sightings - some even convinced of the existence of an underwater UFO/USO ‘base’.

Similarly, a band or ‘corridor’ across the central North Island is a ‘hotspot’ for UFO sightings. New Zealand’s volatile geothermal and volcanic plateau extends across this central plateau, and UFOCUS NZ has documented notable increases in UFO activity that often occur prior to and during seismic activity and volcanic eruptions. This same area also conforms to retired NZ pilot and author Bruce Cathie’s planetary UFO ‘grid line’ theory of UFO ‘routes’.

During February and March of 1995, New Zealanders witnessed both daylight and night-time sightings of strange glowing lights and objects that traversed the skies of the Bay of Plenty and Waikato Districts of coastal and central North Island. Suzanne Hansen and Graeme Opie were among the many witnesses who sighted these objects, which were prevalent over a period of several weeks. To this day, all of the witnesses vividly remember the extraordinary characteristics of both the appearance and flight of these lights and objects.


 At around 10.30 pm on Saturday February 25 1995, Suzanne was outdoors when she observed a large bright green light pass swiftly overhead, travelling from the direction of the Kaimai Ranges towards the sea, in a descending north-easterly path over the Pahoia Peninsula and Tauranga Harbour. The light was around the size of a tennis ball held at arm’s length.

As she watched the light descend, she then observed another light also descending from higher in the sky above the Katikati-Waihi lowlands, heading in an easterly path out over the sea ( on an intersecting path with the green light). This light caught her attention as although it was further away, it was large and striking in appearance - a reddish ball of light with a brilliant red-orange glowing tail flaring behind it. Its brightness did not diminish during the steep and rapid descent. The flaming light was then seen to slow considerably and level off briefly, before continuing to descend at a less steep angle. These movements indicated a distinct controlled descent.

Meanwhile, the green ball of light steadily continued its intersecting course beyond Tauranga Harbour and Matakana Island, out over the sea towards Mayor Island. During the final visible part of their descent, the green light moved alongside the larger red light, before being lost from view behind a coastal hill topped with trees. The sighting lasted for approximately 12-15 seconds. Conditions were clear and windless.


Six days later on Friday 3 March 1995 at around 11.00 pm, two teenagers were outside cleaning up after a family barbeque at their home on the Omokoroa Peninsula, several kilometres east of where the previous sighting occurred. They were astonished to see what appeared as a huge ‘flame’ ascending into the sky. They observed a bright red-orange ball of light with a tail that appeared flame-like spreading out behind it, the edges ‘dripping’ red-orange light like sparkling fireworks. It slowly ascended steeply in altitude out over the sea from the direction of Mayor Island in the north east, moving in a westerly direction towards the Kaimai Ranges of the Bay of Plenty (the object appeared from the general area where the previous witness had seen the two unusual lights disappear six days beforehand). The teenagers called their mother outside to witness this event and all three watched as the flaming light steadily rose in the sky, before maintaining horizontal flight and continuing westward high in the sky until it was no longer visible.


Six days later on Thursday 9 March 1995 at approximately 1.17 pm, two witnesses fishing near Pudney Rock (some 9 miles NNE of Mt Maunganui, near Motiti Island east of Mayor Island, Bay of Plenty) sighted an object in the sky moving east to west from out at sea, travelling towards the coastal lowland (once again, the object appeared from the general direction of the two previous sightings). The day was sunny and the sky was otherwise clear.

One of the witnesses (a part-time qualified meteorological observer for the NZ Meteorological Service) stated that the object had a short flaring and sparkling tail, with a ball or sphere-like object, extremely bright silver/metallic in colour, protruding from the surrounding glow. Immediately in front and half surrounding the object, was a pinkish-orange halo-type ‘bow wave’ that pulsed or glowed extremely brightly. The observer stated that at arms length, the object would have been the size of a 1-5 cent coin, and was observed for 6-8 seconds, passing over Motiti Island towards the beach settlement of Papamoa on the coast, before rising over the Kaimai Ranges towards the Waikato District. The length of the sighting enabled the observer to alert his friend to the object as well.


Following these sightings UFOCUS NZ consulted with the late Dr Frank Bateson, a prominent NZ astronomer. Following a discussion on the characteristics of the reported lights/objects, Dr Bateson established that the physical description of the objects/lights was similar to that of a meteor or fireball. However he stated that the apparent controlled flight characteristics of the lights/objects as described by the witnesses, would eliminate that logical possibility, and that he had no idea what these lights/objects could have been.

Meteors and fireballs:

(1) do not travel horizontally over distance, and rise up over hills
(2) generally burn up high in the atmosphere
(3) do not vary speed and path of descent
(4) are not likely to converge from two different directions to the same apparent spot
(5) are sometimes accompanied by a booming sound

There were no meteor showers occurring at the time.


On Thursday March 9 1995 (the same day as the Pudney Rock sighting), the Air Traffic Control towers at both Hamilton International and Rotorua Airports received reports of sightings of an object in the skies above the Bay of Plenty and Waikato districts. The Rotorua Airport Air Traffic Control Tower received 3 calls at approximately 1.20pm, re the sighting of an object travelling east to west towards Hamilton city.

At 1.20 pm, very shortly after the Pudney Rock sighting, Senior Air Traffic Controller at Hamilton International Airport, Graeme Opie, was looking to the south of the Control Tower when he observed an unusual object trailing a long tail, as it passed east to west. At arms length, the shiny ‘head’ of the object would have been approximately 2mm in diameter. His observation lasted approximately1 ½ seconds.

Mr Opie stated, “There were two other staff in the tower at the time, but due to the sighting time being so brief, the UFO was not sighted by them. I just happened to be looking in the right direction at the right time! Basing a compass rose on the Hamilton Control Tower (in degrees magnetic), I observed the object travel from approximately 160 degrees through to 183 degrees in the space of a second or so, so it was moving very fast. I could liken it to a jet fighter!”

The object was some 10 degrees above the horizon in relation to the observer. It maintained level flight and disappeared behind the clouds in a westerly direction. Upon losing sight of the object Graeme immediately checked with the Auckland Air Traffic Control Radar Centre to see if the unidentified flying object was registering on their radar screens – it was not. He was also advised that there were no aircraft registering on the radar in that area either.

Graeme echoed Dr Bateson’s comments concerning meteors or fireballs: “It was definitely not a fireball or meteor. It was travelling virtually horizontally. At arms length the sparkling trailing tail would have been three fingers width long, preceded by an extremely bright silver object that glistened similar to sunlight reflecting off a mirror. It had an orange ‘tail’, the edges of which were sparkling like a fireworks sparkler.”

UFOCUS NZ believes the object sighted from the Hamilton control tower was the same object sighted approximately just two minutes previously by the fishermen out at sea near Pudney Rock.


That day, local radio stations and the Waikato Times newspaper received reports of what was undoubtedly also the same object. School children in the township of Cambridge said they saw what looked like a ‘comet’ flying across the sky. The newspaper printed an article on the sightings the following day entitled, ‘Goodness gracious, great balls of fire’, promoting the opinion of Dr Wayne Orchiston, Director of the Carter Observatory, Wellington, that the object was a ‘fireball’ (burning rocks ranging in size from thumbnail to fist size, that disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere). However, Mr Orchiston also mentioned that fireballs usually burn up in a flash of heat and light 25-50 kms above the Earth. This fact, along with the other distinct flight characteristics previously mentioned, clearly discounted this object from being a fireball.

The newspaper article also quoted a Te Kawa farming couple who sighted the object at approximately 1.20 pm that day while driving south along State Highway 3 approaching the Te Kawa crossroad south of the town of Te Awamutu. The wife said it caught her attention because it was so bright, with a ‘rainbow-coloured tail’. It was high in the sky and they had to lean forward to fully observe the object through the front windscreen of the car. The couple confirmed the exact time and position of the sighting to UFOCUS NZ, enabling Air Traffic Control to make triangulation calculations using data from the three sightings.


The world UFO harmonic grid system theory, as first formulated and disclosed by NZ Capt. (pilot) Bruce Cathie in the 1950’s may have a bearing on this particular sighting case. Capt. Cathie’s books ‘Harmonic 33’ and ‘Harmonic 695’ generated a great deal of interest worldwide, and over the years he has continued to refine his theories in this area and has published several more books on the subject of a grid pattern associated with UFO sightings and routes around the planet.

Capt. Cathie, after witnessing several UFO sightings himself during his 30 year career as a pilot for NAC (National Airways Corporation, NZ), came to the conclusion after much research and study, that the craft seemed to follow definite ‘track lines’ or ‘grids’ spaced at 7.5 nautical miles apart. The grid is tuned to harmonics of the speed of light and its associated mass, gravatic and electromagnetic components. What is obvious, from Capt. Cathie’s research, is that this ‘grid’ is intricately linked with the mathematical harmonics of ‘reality’ itself, this being the atomic and geometric structures of space and time: the very fabric of the universe.

When looking at this case, it seems the bearing and direction of travel of these lights/objects were very close to, if not directly over two of these ‘track lines’ of the Cathie Grid system. In fact the trajectory of the object sighted on March 9 indicates convergence with a major harmonic intersection of the grid located over the sea off Tauranga. Once again this brings to mind the thoughts of veteran UFO researchers on the significance of this area off the Tauranga coastline in terms of the sheer number of sightings and strange phenomena that have occurred there over the years.


  1. The witnesses were able to provide detailed information.
  2. All of the witnesses gave virtually identical descriptions of the two light(s)/object(s) sighted.
  3. Witnesses described an orange/red ‘tail’ flaring from behind a bright light or silver metallic-looking object, and/or a large distinctive bright green light/lighted object.
  4. February 25 night sighting - two lights/objects were sighted, one at close proximity, and one at a distance. They displayed characteristics of controlled descent and speed.
  5. March 3 night sighting – the light/object ascended and levelled off, displaying characteristics of controlled flight.
  6. March 9 daytime sightings - both the ATC and the meteorological observer described a shiny metallic-looking object protruding from, or ahead of a glowing ‘tail’.
  7. March 9 daytime sighting - the met.observer estimated that at arm’s length the object’s size was similar to a 1-5 cent coin, and was some 15 degrees above the horizon. This put the object at an approximate height of 14,000 feet with an approximate speed of 32,000 kph. The observer had the object in sight for 6-8 seconds and stated that the object ascended above the Kaimai Range on a course to the west. The object was relatively close to the observers.
  8. March 9 daytime sighting from the Hamilton Control Tower approximately 2-3 minutes later, put the object at approximately 10 degrees above the horizon. The object was further away from the observer. In this time the object had ascended some 5000 feet and increased speed by some 18,000 kph to around 50,000 kph.
  9. The Senior Air Traffic Controller observed the object for 1 ½ seconds. During this time the object passed from the 160 radial to the 183 radial from Hamilton Control tower (approx 23 degrees of arc).
  10. Triangulation calculations using the three March 9 daytime sightings (Pudney Rock, Hamilton Control Tower, Te Kawa crossroad) placed the object approximately 37 kms (20 miles) south of Hamilton airport and southwest of the township of Te Awamutu, at approximately 19,000 feet, travelling some 26 kms (14 miles) at a speed of approximately 50,000 kph (30,000 mph).
  11. UFOCUS NZ concurs with the late Dr Bateson’s opinion given at the time. As the light(s) or object(s) observed by all the witnesses had specific flight characteristics (horizontal path over distance, varying speed and height, controlled ascent and descent), they do not fit the characteristics of a meteor or fireball as described by the NZ Carter Observatory.
  12. Auckland ATC Radar Centre reported no aircraft on radar in the area at the time of the March 9 sightings.

A final word from Air Traffic Controller Graeme Opie - “I consider that what I saw from the control tower was a UFO – definitely some form of controlled UFO (unidentified flying object), or a craft (airborne vehicle) of unknown origin and technology. Very interesting that it did not appear on our radar screens!”

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