Leadership, Western Pacific

Aotearoa / New Zealand appoints Two Chief Midwives

29 October 2023

Update from the Western Pacific Regional Professional Committee (WP-RPC), November 2023

In July 2022 the Aotearoa / New Zealand Government rolled out their new health reform that was driven by Pae Ora (Health Futures) Act legislation. The biggest change arising is the establishment dual authorities – an Indigenous Māori authority, Te Aka Whai Ora and mainstream authority, Te Whatu Ora.  The development of these authorities is to honour the principles of the founding document of Aotearoa / New Zealand – Te Tiriti o Waitangi, an agreement signed in 1840 between Māori and the British Crown in a working partnership. 

In this reform, Te Aka Whai Ora (Māori) have the role of leading and monitoring that change to the way the entire health system understands and responds to the health and wellbeing needs of Indigenous Māori people.  Te Whatu Ora (mainstream) was established to run the health system across New Zealand, with functions delivered at local, regional and national levels and to ensure Te Tiriti o Waitangi is embedded within any developments. 

Change programmes are being implemented in New Zealand Health, including in Kahu Taurima (maternity and early years) and where midwives work.  The focus is to shift the system settings, redesign the model of care and how it’s delivered by removing barriers, integrating primary care services to make them connected and easier to navigate for wāhine (women) and whānau (family). The services must be equitable and culturally safe.  

Te Aka Whai Ora (Māori) has appointed Heather Muriwai (Tangahoe, Ngāti Ruanui iwi/tribes) as Chief Clinical Officer, Midwifery and Te Whatu Ora (mainstream) recently appointed Deb Pittam as Interim Chief Midwife. Both have over 25 years’ experience within a variety of midwifery settings from home birth to tertiary settings, and as employed and self-employed midwives.  They have extensive leadership and governance experience and have implemented important changes in their previous roles. 

These newly established midwifery leadership roles will work in partnership to lead change and drive the ongoing development of our profession.  They will enable midwifery and ensure midwives continue to meet the needs of the communities we serve and the priorities which the reformed health system is seeking to address.   

The co-governance model is reflective of an aspirational approach the current New Zealand government, instigated to address existing health inequities.  This is a commitment to hearing the communities’ voices and meeting their Te Tiriti o Waitangi (founding document) obligations.   

Image: Jay Waretini-Beaumont (kahu pokai/midwife) based in Ōtautahi/Christchurch