Much needed Wānaka birthing centre one step closer

Source: 1News

There's relief for expectant mothers in Central Otago with the purchase of a site for a new birthing centre in Wānaka.

The southern region has been struggling to provide adequate maternity care with babies born by the side of the road or in offices in some cases.

Now two years old, Lennix, is full of life, but for his Mum, Saskia Hopper, bringing him into the world was full on.

She gave birth to her first-born on the side of the road with a midwife following behind on the way to a birthing unit more than an hour away from her Wānaka home.

They told us about the experience just days after Lennix was born in 2020.

"I really wanted a completely natural birth which... it's as natural as it gets!"

Her partner, Daniel Hopper said at the time, "as soon as we stopped within 12 minutes the baby was out."

This is just one of a number of babies born in makeshift circumstances in the district.

Local midwife, Peta Hosking said she's delivered several in her office.

"There's been a few! It's not an [impossibility] there's also been a baby born in this new space."

Now Te Whatu Ora Southern, formerly the Southern District Health Board, has bought a building which will become Wānaka's own primary birthing facility.

"It will be a one stop shop," said Hosking.

"We are also going to be able to land helicopters there in case of emergency."

Hopper said, "it's just so important to get there on time and being able to relax instead of rushing somewhere and not necessarily... introducing your baby to the world on the side of the road in the cold ... it can be scary for first-time mums."

Another mother, Kimberley Davis, started a group, Save Our Wānaka Midwives, and has also been fighting for five years for a facility like this.

"It's really good news and I'd like to see it as a first step model for other rural areas across the country, because we are not the only remote area where women are having babies and whanau need better support."

It is thought around 100 women a year will make use of the unit once it opens early next year.

But some hope it's just the start around healthcare.

"Ultimately Central Otago, Wānaka, Queenstown Lakes as a whole, probably needs a secondary tertiary hospital up this way not just for maternity but for all medical services," Hosking said.

Baby steps perhaps, but helping make birth's like Lennix's become less common for rural women.