Wahakura are go!

Wahakura Green Party Policy BabyI was so happy to wake up this morning to the news that Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has done a u-turn and agreed to fund sleep pods for newborn babies. Baby sleeping pods, like pepi-pods or wahakura, are safe sleep bassinets that play a big role in saving babies’ lives.

At the last election we campaigned on giving every newborn baby a welcome package, including a wahakura (a flax woven sleeping pod), to make sure that every child has the essentials to thrive, and because we recognised the huge role a safe sleeping space has in looking after our most precious.

New Zealand has a shockingly high rate of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), and the Government should be doing everything in its power to change that.

SUDI is especially felt amongst Māori, with Māori babies making up more than 60 percent of all cot deaths. Wahakura were originally designed as a safe-sleeping option that is culturally appropriate for Māori families but has much wider appeal.

While I’m so pleased that the Health Minister has changed his mind and agreed to include sleep pods as a part of safe-sleeping initiatives, it’s long overdue.

While the Government has been avoiding the issue, those on the ground have been working hard to do what they can to help families.

The weavers of wahakura, including the many I’ve met over the past year, including from my own South Auckland community, are incredible. They continue to do the work providing wahakura – saving babies’ lives – totally unfunded. They need the Government support that the Greens have been advocating for.

Huge congratulations are also due to Children’s health advocates, particularly Dr David Tipene-Leach who created the wahakura in response to the unacceptable number of Māori babies dying unnecessarily, as well as Professor Ed Mitchell from Auckland University whose meeting with the Minister last week seems to have made a real difference.