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Family anxious for safety of man, 3 children missing near Waikato

The family of a man and three young children missing on the west coast of the Waikato over the weekend are "very anxious and very fearful for their safety" amid concerns they were swept out to sea.

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Tom Phillips, 34, and his three children — eight-year-old Jayda, six-year-old Maverick and five-year-old Ember — were last seen on a farm near the small coastal community of Marokopa, about two hours drive from Hamilton, on Saturday afternoon.

While he lived in Otorohanga, the family said he and his children often visited the farm to spend time with the children's grandparents and cousins.

"Tom loved to whitebait with his children. There was no noticeable change in Tom's behaviour observed by the family," the statement read.

His family were advised on Monday morning that his vehicle had been discovered on Kiritehere Beach and had "moved away from the incoming tide late on Sunday afternoon".

"We immediately contacted the authorities, as this was out of character.

"Because of where the vehicle was found we are understandably very anxious and fearful for the safety of Tom and the children." 

The family said it was possible they were swept off the beach due to the wild weather over the weekend.

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"We are hopeful that Tom has taken the children camping and that they are safe somewhere."

The family thanked the police and SAR "for their dedication to finding Tom and the children and bringing them home".

"The local community have been extremely supportive and the family expresses their gratitude," they said. 

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"At this time, we would respectfully ask for privacy."

In a separate statement, the children's mother said she and the wider family "are holding out every hope that my children Jayda, Maverick and Ember are safe".

"This is an incredibly difficult time for both myself and our wider family," she said.

She called for anyone who may have information, "no matter how small or insignificant they think it might be", to contact the police.

"We want to thank everyone who has reached out to us and offered support," she said.

"We also want to pass our gratitude and thanks on to the people who are out searching. It is so greatly appreciated."