UFO sightings soar
The New Zealand chapter of a UFO religion said soaring numbers of unidentified flying object sightings across the North Island could be because they're holding a conference in Auckland this week.
The Aetherius Society is holding a workshop at its Birkenhead headquarters on Thursday to share messages it claims have come to them from extraterrestrial beings.
The society was established in 1955 by George King and has around 650 members worldwide - 25 from New Zealand.
UFO research group UFocus NZ last week said it had received an "unprecedented" amount of sighting - more than 30 - over the previous two months.
One included the possibility aliens had visited Northland, with reports a man had seen a UFO land there.
Aetherius spokesman Gordon McKenzie had not heard of the spike in sightings, but said the recent beaming down of alien craft could be connected to their society.
"You never know, we've got this meeting on so perhaps they're saying 'here we are'."
McKenzie, who moved to New Zealand from the UK nine years ago, said he's seen "hundreds" of UFOs, but most of those were in the UK.
"It's usually craft that are going through the sky at incredible speeds and they can do zigzags, or do box shape flight patterns, or coil type things, that could never ever be possibly done by anything we've got on this earth and then blinking in and out of visualisation."
He does not know how many people will attend the workshop which is open to the public.
"The world is due for a great change and these [UFOs] are heralding that and giving their message through the society. We want to impart this message on the 31st."
As well as communicating with extraterrestrial "cosmic beings", McKenzie said the group has equipment which stores "prayer energy" and can be sent to world disaster zones, such as last year's Japanese tsunami, to provide healing.
Vicki Hyde of the NZ Skeptics said UFO religions like the Aetherius Society became popular throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s.
"It was a very enthusiastic time for UFO watchers. People had a belief in the great intergalactic brotherhood of man and peace and love and cosmic harmony that was going to come and make things right."
She said if groups like the Aetherius Society are going to make extraordinary claims about communicating with aliens they needed to provide extraordinary proof.
"I think we would be very arrogant to think we were the only ones [in the universe]. But it's a big jump from there's alien life out there to 'I've got a UFO in my backyard'.
"Unfortunately every time we get a decent amount of information about UFO sightings they pretty much are identified as explicable objects whether it's planets, satellites, geese, all kinds of things."