Te Whare Pora o Hineteiwaiwa (House of Weaving) is set to open its doors to its first group of hapū whānau to weave wahakura (woven bassinets) for their unborn babies.

This innovation, the first of its kind in Aotearoa, is being designed and delivered by Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga.

The wānanga is funded by the Auahatanga Hauora Māori funding programme, Ministry of Health, which provides a platform for Māori to live with good health and wellbeing in an environment that supports a good quality of life — mauri ora, whānau ora, wai ora.

Professor David Tipene-Leach, whose concept for the wānanga was used for the funding application that he co-authored, says that traditionally, Te Whare Pora o Hineteiwaiwa was responsible for those women involved in weaving, pregnancy, childbirth and the raising of infants.

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"The primary kaupapa of the initiative will be weaving, with a commitment to having hapū whānau at the centre of the design and development of Te Whare Pora so that it might best serve their needs in the pregnancy and beyond," he said.

The highest concentration of whānau enrolled with TToH in 2018 lived in Flaxmere, so finding an appropriate site in Pāharakeke was paramount.

Te Whare Pora, located in Flaxmere Shopping Centre, will allow pregnant women, their whānau and the wider community much easier access to the many forms of care and support that TToH can offer them.

Hapū women and their whānau will have the opportunity to participate in the weaving of ipu pito, ipu whenua and wahakura for their baby. It is also thought that this might encourage participation in hapū wānanga (antenatal classes), midwife support, smoking cessation, primary healthcare and the myriad of Whānau Ora and Oranga Hinengaro options offered by TToH.

Studies carried out by Professor David Tipene-Leach and Dr Sally Abel in 2013 found that use of the wahakura as an alternative to unsafe bedsharing practices (where there was smoking in pregnancy) would mitigate the risk that led to SUDI deaths.

Te Whare Pora o Hineteiwaiwa provides a gateway for hapū whānau to access care and support that may reduce other factors that lead to such deaths, as well as connecting whānau to Māori culture through raranga [weaving], tikanga and karakia.

Lewis Ratapu, TToH General Manager of Business Growth and Design, says: "We believe that extending the use of raranga as a platform to engage Māori more effectively will add to the small but growing body of evidence that Māori traditional practices are more than just arts and culture but sit at the heart of Māori wellbeing."