By ALASTAIR PAULIN - The Nelson Mail
No-one used the word UFO but the lights seen in the sky over Upper Moutere, near Nelson, last night are definitely unidentified.
Several people reported seeing balls of fire in the sky about 9.30pm, with Matiu Noakes saying he saw nine, moving from the direction of Kina toward Upper Moutere. "They looked like skydivers coming down with flares attached to them."
He said they faded out over Upper Moutere and were going too fast to be flares.
Lisa Chambers, marketing manager for Skydive Abel Tasman and a keen member of Nelson's skydiving community, said "there is absolutely no way it could have been skydivers". She said night drops were too dangerous in that area and had there been a prank afoot, she would have known.
Mike Reed, a helicopter pilot, said he was driving toward Motueka along the Moutere Highway when he saw the lights. He saw several other cars parked at the turnoff to Neudorf Rd, and spoke to others there who had been watching the lights.
He said he expected to hear aircraft noise when he turned off his engine but it was completely silent. Even so, he double-checked with air traffic control at Nelson Airport, which knew of no aircraft in the sky nearby at the time.
He said the lights were below the clouds, which he estimated to be about 300 to 500 metres up, and one of them appeared to float up into the clouds.
"If I was going to take a guess on it, I would say somebody's got a bunch of helium balloons and they've tied something on to it." But he had discounted every theory he had come up with so far.
Astronomer Robert Rea, of the Nelson Science Society, said he doubted anything astronomical would have pierced last night's cloud cover. Motueka police said they received no calls.