by Matt Taylor, Central Coast Gosford Express Advocate
A DISBELIEVING federal minister has launched a probe into an X-File mystery of why taxpayers have forked out thousands of dollars for a Central Coast UFO group to conduct its out-of-this-world activities.
Minister for Social Services Christian Porter this week called for an urgent review into his department's decision to approve a grant of $2645 for Tuggerah Lakes UFO group to "do their important work", after it had received $2994 in 2013.
"The minister's office has been advised that this group was previously funded under the Labor government in 2013 and that some of this grant goes to the transport costs of volunteers with a disability," a spokeswoman for Mr Porter said.
"However, the minister is somewhat surprised at the nature of this particular volunteer group being funded through this grant program and he has instructed his department to hold the transmission of funds pending a re-examination of the application."
Not ET. Minister for Social Services Christian Porter has called for an urgent review into the funding of a Central Coast UFO group.
A Tuggerah Lakes UFO group spokeswoman said the close encounter with a funding investigation was "disappointing", but "it's not the end of the world".
Asked what the group - which has more than 800 Facebook members - used the funding for, she said: "We have elderly people we pick up and take to meetings, where we need projectors and microphones so everyone can see and hear what's going on.
"We also have outings out at night checking for unusual activity."
The Department of Social Services says on its website that "the funding will help (the UFO group's) volunteers to do their important work".
"By sharing their experiences and knowledge within the community, the volunteers foster social inclusion and enrich the local region," it said.
The Coast has long been a hot spot for UFO sightings. The 1994 Gosford UFO incident, where business owners, policemen and retired academics witnessed a large object beaming "four or five" bright lights into Brisbane Water, made national headlines.
The Tuggerah Lakes UFO group spokeswoman says the truth is out there for the "many" locals who have since spotted unusual activity in the region.
"It's always hard to get a definitive photo," she said. "Often people find it easier to speak about their experiences."
Quizzed on how the public reacted to the UFO group, she said: "It's getting better, but some people think we're all crazy. We actually get people come to our meetings from all walks of life.
"We're all open-minded to aliens being out there. When you read and hear the stories (of UFO sightings), anything's possible."
GOSFORD 1994 X-FILES STILL A MYSTERY:
IT'S one of Australia's most intriguing UFO cases.
On New Year's Eve 1994, police switchboards lit up with reports of an unidentified illuminated object over Brisbane Water.
Witnesses reported seeing a "huge ball-shaped object with bright lights on the bottom" where it appeared to be sucking up water.
Some believed the "four or five" beams of light were turning the water to steam, while others described the water frothing.
Reports came in that night from respected members of the community including police officers, doctors, teachers, nurses and lawyers. Police were sent out to investigate, but they soon found themselves chasing a "strange metallic craft" back and forth across the bay.
Officers said that when they came within 50m of the UFO, the "craft would turn off its own lights and shoot up skywards, out of sight".
Residents also reported their pets acting strangely, with dogs howling for no apparent reason.
UFO researcher Moira McGhee investigated the eyewitness reports, putting in calls to possible launching sites for planes and helicopters. But her inquiries brought no evidence on the UFO's origin.
The mystery has never been explained.