NATASHA MARTIN/Timaru Herald
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Temuka man Ken Thew will never forget seeing a UFO on Waitohi Rd in 1981.
Nearly 30 years after a late-night encounter with a UFO, Temuka man Ken Thew remains convinced he saw something extraordinary on Waitohi Rd.
Yesterday, after authorisation from the Defence Force, more than 2000 pages of secret files held by Archives New Zealand were released.
The files are said to include every witness account of unidentified flying objects reported to authorities since the 1950s and Mr Thew said he would be interested in reading the files.
The now-retired mechanic said he did not think about the encounter unless other people brought it up in conversation, but he had spoken to others who had seen UFOs.
"What they have seen is different compared to what we have seen but that's apparently the way it is."
The memory of the large, bright object which accompanied Mr Thew, his wife, and their three young daughters home from Pleasant Point to Temuka on July 12, 1981 was still vivid, Mr Thew said.
"My thoughts are the same: what you see is what you see.
"It was a bit frightening for a start. We were just travelling home from a night at me cobber's place. The oldest girl said, `what's that over there?' and I said I had no idea."
The couple described to the Temuka Herald in 1981 how a multi-coloured flying object paced them along the road, approaching to within 110 metres of their car and changing colours as it went. They knew by the hour of the night, the manoeuvres and closeness of the object that it was not an aeroplane.
Yesterday, Mr Thew said the size and the brilliance of the object, which was shaped like a football, told him it was unusual.
However, while the encounter was reported in media, they kept a second part of the story to themselves and close friends – several visits by a man to their home and workplace shortly after seeing the object.
Introducing himself as Mr Wright, an "investigator" from Christchurch and dressed in a musty suit, he warned them not to contact or approach the object, Mr Thew said.
The man's behaviour was peculiar: he drank a cup of boiling tea in one gulp, read a page by scanning from bottom to top and knew the name of their pet dog before it could be told to him.
Before the encounter with the object, Mr Thew said he had a divided opinion on UFOs.
"If somebody had told me what I had seen myself I would sort of look at them and think, `well, okay'."
The object was something he was not familiar with and had never seen the likes of before, he said.
He did not rule out an natural explanation but said the speed at which it travelled and the intensity of its light were unusual.
The Thews' account garnered media attention in 1981 and they were visited unexpectedly by a television crew.
"They got the kids to draw pictures of what they saw," Mr Thew said.
Most of the responses they got were positive; people called them to ask them about the incident, and later a Polish professor visited them to learn more about their experience. Their story attracted a small negative response, with about five calls from people suggesting they were mad, he said.
However, Mr Thew stands by what he saw.
"I had my faculties; I know what I saw."
CENTRAL SOUTH ISLAND UFO REPORTS
Local sightings reported on ufoinfo.com:
September 26, 2009: Two Timaru witnesses report seeing about 10 bright orange, moving objects at 8.15pm, which suddenly veered sideways.
November 27, 2006: A witness reports seeing a silvery white and cylindrical object taking off from the Richard Pearse Airport about 7.30am.
June 30, 2006: A witness took two photos. One showed a mysterious object over Oamaru between 1pm and 3pm.
February, 2006: Two adults and a boy, 11, report seeing a slow-moving object in the sky between Pleasant Point and State Highway 1 about 4pm.
August 5, 2005: Two witnesses travelling between Kurow and Omarama between 8pm and 9pm report seeing a slow-moving, orange, pulsating object "far bigger than any stars".
July 20, 1996: Five people at Rosewell near Timaru report seeing a triangular shape, with three lights, in the night sky.
August 15, 1990: One witness reports seeing an orange glow appear in a rear-view mirror about 1am.