Mystery as father and three kids vanish on remote NZ beach

A frantic land-and-sea search is underway for a missing father and his three children, who disappeared on a remote beach on New Zealand's North Island.

Tom Phillips, 34, Jayda, 8, Maverick, 6, and Ember, 5, were last seen at a family gathering on Saturday night.

Their grey Toyota Hilux was discovered abandoned in the surf the next day on Kiritehere beach.

Police release family images as search continues

Surf Life Saving squads scoured the ocean on Thursday as ground-based rescuers searched far and wide along the rugged coastline.

Police have released images of the missing Otorohanga family and are now asking anyone who was at Marokopa or Kiritehere Beach over the weekend to come forward. Source: Waikato Police
Tom Phillips, 34, Jayda, 8, Maverick, 6, and Ember, 5, haven't been seen or heard from Saturday night. Source: Waikato Police

With no sign of the family and no new leads, police have released their images in a desperate appeal for information.

“We want to acknowledge the family’s incredible strength at this very difficult time and thank them for their on-going help,” the statement read.

Officers want to speak to anyone who was in the Marokopa or Kiritehere Beach areas over the weekend.

“While you might not think you have seen something, we want to hear from you.”

Police said a team of investigators is continuing to build a detailed timeline of Tom and the children’s movements.

Thomas Phillips' ute was found abandoned on Kiritehere beach
Thomas Phillips' ute was found abandoned on Kiritehere beach. Source: Google Maps/File

Hopes family went camping

Distraught family members are reportedly clinging to hope Tom has taken his three children on a camping trip.

"It's looking more and more likely that it's not the answer we want," his uncle Thomas Phillips told the NZ Herald.

"Our biggest fear is that a rogue wave swept them out to sea. Because Tom was an extremely resilient person we're hopeful that Tom has taken the children camping.

"That's something that he was more than capable of, yes, he was a very resilient man, a capable hunter and he knew how to look after himself and knew his way round the bush."

The children's mother, and Tom's former partner, was holding out "every hope that my children Jayda, Maverick and Ember are safe", the NZ Herald reports.

Tom, a full-time dad from Otorohanga, home-schooled his children and would often drive the winding, narrow road to the coast.

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