Police have 'serious concerns' for missing family, vehicle found on beach with waves crashing onto bonnet

Police have "serious concerns" for a man and three young children last seen on the North Island's west coast on Saturday.

A major search and rescue operation is underway at Marokopa and Kiritehere in Waikato to find 34-year-old Thomas Phillips and his three young children Jayda Jin, 8, Maverick Callum-Phillips, 6, and Ember Phillips, 5. They live on a farm at Marokopa.

"The last sighting of the family was in Marokopa on Saturday, September 11," West Waikato Area Commander Will Loughrin said on Tuesday afternoon.

"The vehicle used by Thomas was found by a family member at the beach at Kiritehere on Sunday, September 12. On Monday morning, the family were reported missing to police, and a search and rescue operation was commenced."

Loughrin said the vehicle was found with waves crashing onto its bonnet and police have "serious concerns" for the group. 

"This is out of character for the family. This is day four. That is why you will see a significant amount of resource that has been put into this search and rescue operation to bring Thomas and the kids home."

Staff from police, LandSAR, Fire and Emergency, and the Coastguard are involved in the operation on the rural, rugged coast, with the police Eagle helicopter being brought in from Auckland as well as FENZ drones and a Coastguard plane.

The search is currently focussed on Marokopa, Kiritehere Beach and the coastal and surrounding township areas. Staff are out door-knocking residents, asking if they have seen the family. 

Police have 'serious concerns' for missing family, vehicle found on beach with waves crashing onto bonnet
Photo credit: Newshub.

"Police are seeking the public's support, sightings from anyone who has seen or heard from the family since Saturday. That will assist us with putting the pieces together."

Loughrin said family last spoke to Thomas on Saturday evening and there "were no issues raised at the time". 

"Family didn't realise Thomas and the kids were missing until the vehicle was found missing on Sunday on the beach."

Authorities are looking into events on Saturday at the farm, including "what was said, what the intentions of Thomas were in terms of his movement later on that day and the coming days".

He said there is no suggestion of foul play.

Conditions on the coast are rough on Tuesday and may worsen on Wednesday before improving on Thursday.

"We're committed to bringing Thomas and the kids home."

Ōtorohanga District Mayor Max Baxter told Newshub concerns for the family's welfare are growing "as each hour goes by".

"When I heard yesterday there was a family missing, obviously there was immediate concern, but [I was] fairly optimistic - I was hoping they may have gone into the bush for a bit of a walk, may have got held up somewhere, or just hadn't made contact with family or friends," he said.

"As each hour goes by I suppose there's a wee bit greater concern, especially now the names have been released. I feel for the immediate family and friends… let's hope everything is okay."

Baxter says the waters along the west coast of the North island can be treacherous.

"The west coast is fairly gnarly by default anyway and Marokopa is no exception to that, so it can be a challenging coastline," he said.

"The police are doing everything they can… hopefully they can uncover something reasonably soon."

Anyone with information is asked to contact 105 and quote job number P047915838.