A storm of purple is descending on Parliament as hundreds of midwives deliver a petition to Health Minister David Clark calling for urgent sustainable funding for midwifery.

Singing We're Not Going To Take It, the midwives and their supporters marched down Lambton Quay to protest pay as low as $7 an hour.

Some claim they haven't had a pay rise in over 17 years, and are struggling to pay student loans and mortgages.

Clark spoke to the midwives, as marked International Midwives Day with a protest about long hours and low pay, marching on Parliament to deliver Clark a book of personal messages.


Clark said he heard what the midwives had to say.

He says the Government cares about children, and about the plight of healthcare workers and assured the midwives it planned to address funding concerns.

The midwives say the need for sustainable funding is urgent.

"The Ministry of Health and the NZ College of Midwives have together produced a funding model that solves the issues of gender pay equity and shortages of community midwives. The Government just needs to fund it in the Budget," said Siobhan Connor, chairwoman of the Wellington Region of the College of Midwives.

"With average take-home hourly income for rural midwives of $7.23 and for urban midwives of $12.80 urgent action is needed. We love our work and know we make a huge difference to women but our families suffer when our dedication and skill is not financially recognised. Midwives are leaving the profession because of this and then women lose access to maternity care. The solution is ready – so fund it."

The march is one of six protests taking place across the country today. Their noise will also be heard in Auckland, Dunedin, Tauranga, Taupo and Waikato.

Connor said three years had passed since midwives launched their pay equity case with the High Court and the issue was still not solved.

Clark said he would meet the midwives when they arrived at Parliament.


"Too many of our midwives are stretched beyond capacity – there are issues of professional isolation, burnout and attrition. This is not just a pay issue. There is more work to be done looking at hours of work, caseloads and how midwives can work more closely with the wider primary care sector."

The Budget would include a package to start addressing the issues facing midwives but Clark said the Government could not solve everything in one Budget.