A new community-based maternity service funded by Kahu Taurima to deliver te ao Māori models of care for hapū māmā and whānau has been opened in Western Bay of Plenty. 

Along with 40 community-based hauora Māori partners across Aotearoa, Te Aka Whai Ora has invested in Tapuhi Ahi Kā to establish a midwifery-led, wrap-around service for hapū māmā and their whānau. This investment will enable a continuity of care across throughout pregnancy, birth, and a child’s early years. 

Tapuhi Ahi Kā offer a hub space steeped in manaakitanga and whanaungatanga which allows whānau to self-determine their aspirations and choose what type of care suits them best.

Services include providing wānanga involving the whole whānau, full midwifery care, and support to utilise traditional practices during pregnancy and birth such as wairuatanga or holistic wellbeing, muka or the use of flax fibre to secure the umbilical cord after birth, and rongoā or a traditional wellbeing and healing practices grounded in mātauranga Māori.

Hapū māmā and whānau will also have access to kaiāwhina or a maternity social worker and a traditional birthing attendant, who can work alongside them, for example to support labour with karakia, or to undertake a traditional tohi - a ceremony to cleanse māmā and dedicate pēpi to Atua Māori.

Tapuhi Ahi Kā will be offering their services from a central hub in Tauranga Moana as well as out of the co-located site at Poutiri Trust in Te Puke.

It has recruited five full-time midwives and aims to support 120-160 hapū māmā every year.

Heather Muriwai, Chief Midwifery Officer for Te Aka Whai Ora, says to ensure pēpi have everything possible for a best start in life, whānau including māmā, pāpā, and others who play a support role, must be supported.

“Tapuhi Ahi Kā is an example of how Te Aka Whai Ora is increasing funding to prioritise the wellbeing and aspirations of whānau by giving them the ability to choose which maternity and early years services best suit their needs and providing them with whānau-centred and culturally affirming care.

“It shows how the system can work for whānau – rather than for them having to work to navigate the system – and make them feel supported and valued during their parenting journey.”

TeRina Joseph, one of the midwives at Tapuhi Ahi Kā, said she and the other midwives behind the hub wanted to set up a whare for the whole whānau during the hapūtanga journey.

“Our colleagues have been working hard in this space and it is exciting to move forward alongside them, our hapū māmā and their whānau.  We are grateful to have our central whare, and also be co-located with our team at Poutiri Trust,” she says.

“Our vision is that everyone is treated with mana and respect, that the whole whānau unit is looked at in maternity, rather than just māma and pēpi, that tāne are upheld and respected in the birthing realm.

“Western medicine decides what they think is best for you and this is the way you should do it. Māori-led solutions say: what do you think is the best for you and your whānau, how can we help you to get to your dreams and aspirations? 

“Mana motuhake is our vision and aspiration for all whānau.”

Many of the initiatives of the hauora Māori partners are now in the co-design and testing phases, with partners working together alongside whānau to ensure that their voices are represented and that services offered deliver on the needs of communities.

Kahu Taurima is the joint approach between Te Aka Whai Ora and Te Whatu Ora on maternity and early years – pre-conception to five years old, or the first 2000 days of life – for all families in Aotearoa New Zealand.