Tom Phillips 'remorseful' after going missing for 19 days with his three children

The family that was found "safe and well" after going missing in the south Waikato for 19 days have expressed their "relief and joy at their safe return" in a statement provided to Newshub.

Father Thomas Phillips and children Jayda Jin, Maverick Callum-Phillips and Ember Phillips were found in Marokopa on Thursday morning, police said.

Waikato West Area Commander Inspector Will Loughrin said the four were living in a tent in a dense bush area while they were missing. Phillips is an experienced bushman and was able to look after himself, Loughrin added.

Phillips said he is "remorseful and humbled for the unintended trouble he has caused" in a statement released by the family to Newshub on Sunday. 

"We, the family of Thomas, Jayda, Maverick and Ember Phillips wish to express our relief and joy at their safe return, well and happy," they said. "In these uncertain times with so many added pressures Tom's decision to go camping without letting anyone know was obviously distressing to everybody. 

"Since his return, on gaining an understanding of what lengths have been gone to, to ensure their safe return and the distress caused, he is remorseful and humbled for the unintended trouble he has caused. 

"He is now coming to terms with the horrific ordeal we have been put through, thinking that they were possibly all dead."

 In a statement provided to Newshub. the family said they're working together to move forward from this difficult situation. 

The family thanked all search and rescue teams that helped bring them back safe as well as the local iwi.

"We are so grateful for the amazing work of the police, LANSAR, Coast Guard, Surf Life-saving,  and the respect and kindness they have all shown us during the waiting process," the statement said.

"We want to express our undying gratitude and aroha to the local iwi and community led by Kaumatua Hemi Kete and Nora Haupokia who worked tirelessly to support the search for the missing family by providing food and sustenance and also joining in the search. Also thanks to Tainui and Maniapoto for their amazing contribution."

The family have shared how they have met with local iwi to show their appreciation for their support during the search. 

"The coming together of the community for such a cause and the amazing support, love and prayers of our family, friends and neighbours has been an incredible comfort to us all," they said.

"Tom and the children together with members of the family have met with local iwi today (Sunday), to express our gratitude to them personally."