The organisers of the Wai Worri festival – an annual country music event near Dargaville – like giving back to the community and chose to give this year's concert proceeds of $6115 to local charity HeartKids Northland.

Wai Worri committee member Carleen Still said the festival was three years in running and each year they would support a different Northland-based charity.

"One of the committee members has a granddaughter with a heart condition," Still said, explaining where the idea came from.

She said one of their headlining artists at this year's event, Dennis Marsh, also had several heart operations in the past.


Held in a woolshed in Aranga, 34km north-west of Dargaville, the Wai Worri festival is organised by volunteers in early January and apart from covering general expenses, all proceeds go towards charities.

Wai Worri committee members, HeartKids volunteers and families affected by heart conditions met last week as Wai Worri handed over their donations.

Whangārei woman Ally Buchanan is one of the mothers involved the organisation and attended the get-together with Wai Worri.

Buchanan found out that her daughter Naia had a heart condition early into her pregnancy, and got involved with Heartkids before Naia was born.

"We were living in the Waikato at the time and connected with HeartKids down there. The group was always very supportive and protective, and even when we were in the hospital, we had people coming around coddle our daughters, so we had time to take showers."

After moving to Whangārei, Buchanan joined the local HeartKids branch and started meeting local mums who are in similar situations.

She said having a baby with a heart condition had a major impact on her family's life, specifically at the start.

"My husband had to quit his job to look after Naia and our other daughter Holly. Not knowing what was going to happen with Naia was stressful."


Buchanan said her daughter was "right on track" and apart from the scar on her chest you wouldn't be able to tell she had heart problems.

In the two years since she was born, Naia had two heart surgeries with one more to come in a couple of years.

The Buchanan family are not the only Northlanders affected. One in 100 babies in New Zealand is born with a congenital heart condition which makes it the most common birth defect and also the number one cause of death in infants.

While some children can go on to live a normal life, many face a lifetime of surgeries and daily medication and in some cases, an uncertain future.

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Little one-year-old Awanuiarangi Akena from Whangārei has two holes in her heart.

"The midwife heard a murmur in her heart when she was five days old," Awanuiarangi mother, Tui Mua, said.

"It takes away all the happiness of having a baby at the start. I couldn't sleep because I was worried she would stop breathing or have a heart attack.

She said joining HeartKids and be able to talk to people who could relate to her situation was helpful.

"Every heart has its own story, but we're all going through the same thing."

HeartKids will celebrate their Little Heart awareness day on February 14, for 12 Kiwi kids born every week with a heart defect. They are encouraging communities and group to wear red, organise baking stalls or to use the day to educate children about heart health. To sign up, visit