Local Māori are helping in the search for a missing man and his three children in Marokopa near Otorohanga. Thomas Phillips, and his three children aged eight, six, and five have been missing since Sunday.
Photos of the missing family are posted on the rescue base, a reminder of the task at hand.
“We all grew up together. I went to school with the young man’s parents. It’s really quite heavy to decide where we go, how we're going to sort this, if they'll come back to us and to the family,” Kiritehaere resident Nora Haupokia says.
Nora Haupokia belongs to the people of Ngāti Te Kanawa and Ngāti Pēhi. Her nephews discovered the vehicle Phillips abandoned on Sunday.
“Phillips came here, left his vehicle, then disappeared. I'm really worried about them. This has never ever happened to us before.”
Waikato West Area Commander Will Loughrin says the focus of Operation Marokopa is two-fold, with the physical search continuing in the Marokopa and Kiritehere areas while investigators make inquiries to determine the family's movements.
Haupokia has opened her home to the rescue workers
“All the ones who have been coming backwards and forwards here over the last few days, I go outside and tell them to come in have a meal, a cup of tea, and get warm.”
The elders of Ngāti Te Kanawa, Kinokahu and Te Peehi have placed a rāhui on the area.
“When we lose someone in an incident like this, it's best to rāhui. We're not sure if they're in the sea or on land but, because it happened by the sea, it's the best thing to do,”
Fire and Emergency and Police are operating drones in the area. The current weather conditions have prevented the Eagle helicopter and the Coastguard NZ plane from assisting the search this morning.
Police continue to ask for sightings of Phillips and his children.