Marokopa missing family: Sea search on hold as police reveal Tom Phillips' keys found in ute

There are new developments on Friday night in the case of missing South Waikato father Tom Phillips and his three youngsters.

The sea search for the family, who have not been seen since Saturday, is now on hold, after a fifth day of Operation Marokopa.

Police have confirmed to Newshub the 34-year-old’s car keys were under the mat when his swamped ute was found facing out to sea on Kiritehere beach Sunday morning.

Police are keeping an open mind about what they have found, and on Friday they asked for information about any vehicle Phillips has owned recently including two motorcycles.

"We have information to suggest he has owned two motorcycles, a 2004 Honda XR400 and a 2019 Honda CRF50,"  Waikato West Area Commander Will Loughrin said.

"Police would now like to account for their whereabouts. We appreciate this specific appeal for information may lead to speculation the motorcycles could be involved in some way.

"This is not the case, however police need to ensure we explore this line of enquiry and want to hear from anyone who might have seen them or know where they are."

While police go high tech, locals are going back to basics searching the coastline unprepared to give up on 8-year-old Jayda, her 6-year-old brother Maverick and five-year-old sister Ember and their father Tom.

"I just hope they find them soon - you never know," a young local told Newshub, who was helping the search on horseback.

Surf life savers today made the most of the still seas, tracking kilometres up the coast to Taharoa. Swimmers took to the shallows, boats negotiated the deep.

"It's clean as everything down there which tells us we can now rule that part out - and that was our goal today," Allan Mundy of Surf Lifesaving New Zealand says.

Phillips' sister Rozzi Newshub today she wishes there was something, anything to give them hope.

But she says they're resigned to the very real possibility now they may be waiting for the sea to return Tom and the children.

By 2pm, surf life savers surged into shore, with no clues, and no resolution.

They'll return tonight to their homes in Tauranga, Raglan and Taranaki - the sea search on hold for the weekend.

"We're going [home] a little bit empty, because we feel for the family," Mundy says.

But the family couldn't be more grateful, with Phillips' parents and sister among those attending a karakia this afternoon to thank surf lifesavers.

"The long hard hours they've spent during this ordeal I must give them the utmost thanks," Hemi Kete of Ngati Tekanawa Kaumatua tells Newshub.

Whether it’s the land or sea that hold the secrets to what happened here six days ago, police say they’re determined to uncover them.