Missing NZ family found after bush mystery

·2-min read

Four members of a New Zealand family have been found safe and well after their mysterious disappearance created "17 days of hell" for their community.

Tom Phillips and his three children Jayda, 8, Maverick, 6, and Ember, 5, returned to the family farm on Thursday, almost three weeks after they were last sighted by family.

They were last seen in Marokopa, a remote stretch of North Island's east coast on September 11.

A vast rescue effort began the day after, when the Phillips' car was found on a nearby beach during a poor spell of weather.

Police gave up the search last week after a 12-day operation failed to locate the four.

However, a sighting of the four riding bikes on a nearby road at 5:30am prompted renewed hope.

"This was unusual," NZ police's Waikato West area commander Will Loughrin said.

"We deployed a fixed wing plane and drones, but they were not located."

Instead, the four turned up unexpectedly at the farm the next day.

"As Dad said, 'I just hope he walks in,' and he has. This is the best-case scenario," Mr Phillips' sister Rozzi Pethybridge told Newshub on Thursday.

Police spent Thursday afternoon questioning Mr Phillips, with Mr Loughrin answering some questions about their getaway but not all.

"We're speaking with them to clarify their movements," he said.

"The area they were likely living in was around 15km south ... they were using a tent. They were in dense bush area.

"We know from the family and our our search he was an experienced bushman and had the capability to look after himself.

With everyone safe and well, Mr Loughrin reflected on the remarkable and unexpected end to the lengthy search effort.

"It is extraordinary," he said.

"It is the scenario we had hoped ... to happen this way, it is fantastic for the family.

"It is a family that experienced 17 days of hell. This is a community that experienced 17 days of hell wondering what had happened."

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