A number of reports of distress flare sightings in the upper North Island over the past few days have turned out to be not emergency signals but novelty lanterns.
Over the past few days there have been several reports of flare sightings, which police say have turned out to be lantern-type lights that can reach heights of 300m.
They are not as bright as distress flares and float around instead of drifting down.
Inspector Chris Robinson says emergency services are required to investigate distress flares, so the false reports are tying up police resources.
He's made a plea for people to buy lanterns in a colour other than red, which is the colour used internationally for distress flares.
Mr Robinson says the police are concerned that a lot of the lanterns may be lit on New Year's Eve.