Rural maternity sector gets $242 million funding boost

The Government hopes to bring the struggling rural maternity sector up to speed with a quarter of a billion dollar funding boost. 

It'll pay more to midwives who have to travel long distances for births and allow them to spend more time with high-needs pregnancies.

For many rural births, the inequities of the maternity sector have been laid bare.

"Because there's a lack of resources in those areas, particularly rural areas, we're providing that," community midwife Nicole Pihema told Newshub.

"So we become the social worker, we become the Ministry of Social Development, [and] we become the food bank."

Maternity care is often a postcode lottery. Stories of births on the sides of roads or of midwives unable to make it to the birth are common.

Until now, rural midwives have been paid a standard rate despite longer travel times to remote areas, or the need to provide more attention during a complicated pregnancy or birth.

"It's really important to be there for those women because we've invested in their health and the health of their babies, and it's never really recognised as an investment," Pihema said.

A $242 million dollar funding package hopes to fix that - going towards wages and the development of a new action plan.

"We want midwives to be paid fairly for the work they do," Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter said. "And we want women to be supported all throughout their pregnancy so they can have healthy births."

The College of Midwives says the funding will fix where midwives haven't been paid in the past - and that can only be good for parents and babies too.

"Those women and families have an opportunity to have the services that any woman in New Zealand is entitled to," acting chief executive Jacqui Anderson said.