'Dozens' of Tom Phillips tip-offs as police move focus to Honikiwi and Ōtorohanga

The reward clock is ticking for associates of fugitive Tom Phillips to give him up.

Police have had "dozens" of tipoffs since Tuesday when they posted an $80,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of the Marokopa father and his three children Jayda, 10, Maverick, 9 and Ember, 8. Police's reward offer expires on June 25.

On Friday, they wound up their checkpoints in the tiny settlement of Marokopa as they investigate sightings of Phillips further afield at Honikiwi and Ōtorohanga. 

"We've had reports of suspicious activity, people with firearms, some potential sightings of Tom - nothing definitive but we need to work through it all," said Acting Detective Inspector Andrew Saunders.

They have ruled out an alleged sighting two weeks ago of a young family resembling the Phillips at Okoroire Hot Pools near Tirau.

The decision to scale back checkpoints around Marokopa and replace them with patrols was "part of a 72-hour phase" in Operation Curly which has been running for two-and-a-half years.

The children have not been seen since December 2021, when Phillips disappeared with them.

He missed a scheduled court appearance in January 2022. A warrant is also out for his arrest following his alleged involvement in the armed holdup of Te Kuiti's ANZ bank last year and an attack on a PioPio superette.

"We now just have a small number of community assurance patrols, we were also wary it was wearing on the patience of the locals," said Saunders.

Marokopa resident Mark Ammon said it was "a small price to pay" if it meant a successful end to the operation and the children could be found safe.

Saunders said police continue to keep Phillips' parents and the children's mother up to date.

"They want it to be over. Some are engaging with us, others we would like them to be more forthright with their information."

Police are warning sightseers and hunters seeking to find Phillips for the $80,000 reward to steer clear of the region if that's their motive.

"The reward is targeted at those who have direct knowledge of Tom and the children, we don't want people coming in looking - we'd ask them to stay away."