A $6 million special care baby unit to be built at Auckland's Waitakere Hospital hopes to help save hundreds of premature Kiwi babies born each year.

The new build comes at a time when demand for the care of vulnerable newborns was so high, some babies were being shipped off to Australia for treatment.

"It's very rare but it does happen - and it's not uncommon for newborn babies and their mothers to be transferred to units around the country due to lack of available SCBU cots," Well Foundation chief executive Andrew Young, who was leading the project, told the Herald.

Waitakere Hospital, run by Waitemata District Health Board, was the largest, and one of the fastest growing, DHBs in New Zealand.

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The DHB's 2018 population was estimated at around 630,000 and was projected to rise by 106,000 (17 per cent) in the next decade.

But Young said population growth was issue all DHBs were struggling with.

Well Foundation's chief executive Andrew Young says the new special care baby unit will benefit hundreds of premature Kiwi babies and their mothers. Photo / Supplied
Well Foundation's chief executive Andrew Young says the new special care baby unit will benefit hundreds of premature Kiwi babies and their mothers. Photo / Supplied

Not only would this unit benefit the 350 premature babies admitted to the Waitakere SCBU each year but life-threatening babies across the region, and around the country, could also benefit, he said.

Every 90 minutes a premature baby was born in New Zealand, that's more than 5000 a year.

The new unit planned to increase bed capacity from 12 to at least 18 to help meet projected population growth.

Accommodation for parents to stay overnight - which was not currently available due to space constraints - was also part of the rebuild.

Young started rallying together donors just four months ago and already $4.2 million had been raised.

West Auckland's The Trusts, a community-owned organisation supporting retail and hospitality businesses in the area, was the first to get the project off the ground, donating $2m.

"After that other local businesses, such as Jeff Douglas of Douglas Pharmaceutical who donated $1m, seemed to follow suit which has been amazing," Young said.

He said Waitemata District Health Board was also contributing $1 million.

"With any luck we hope to gather the rest by Christmas," Young said.

From there, building was set to start in October next year with a completion date of June 2020.

A donation page has been set up to help raised the remaining $800,000.

A mother's story

Earlier this year, West Auckland mum Xenia was not only on the verge of loosing her only child but was also running the risk of not ever being able to conceive again.

The 37-year-old's horror story started when she was just 22 weeks pregnant.

She and her husband were expecting twins but sadly lost one, a baby boy.

Then, just two weeks later she was rushed to Auckland City's Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after experiencing abnormal bleeds.

Xenia had two scares before being told she had no option but to have an emergency caesarean.

"I was told there was a chance my baby would not survive and they may have to perform a hysterectomy which means I wouldn't have another chance to have kids," Xenia told the Herald in tears.

"We were praying, please God, please let my baby live."

Xenia with her little fighter - one month after giving birth. Photo / Supplied
Xenia with her little fighter - one month after giving birth. Photo / Supplied

Through an "absolute miracle" her baby girl survived but not without complications.

Xenia and her baby were later transferred Waitakere's SCBU, where they spent to the next five months.

"It was such a stressful time and I've seen how busy it gets there. It's insane, there's not enough beds or space and the poor nurses are so over worked," she said.

Xenia said when you've been in hospital for that long, going home with no support was terrifying.

Part of the rebuild project planned to include parent rooms where families could prepare themselves for life at home.

Xenia's baby Hannah (not her real name) at two months old. Photo / Supplied
Xenia's baby Hannah (not her real name) at two months old. Photo / Supplied

"I think having that safety net there is such a great part of the project because it is such a stressful period."

Six months after giving birth, Xenia's baby continues to fight. She has battled her way through three life-threatening viruses, undergone laser eye surgery, had chronic lung disease and more recently concerns have been raised about the state of her hearing.

"She is the most beautiful little character. She's starting to make cute little sounds and has her daddy's eyes."