Claims of a ''toxic'' and ''bullying'' culture in Lumsden regarding the controversial regrading of the northern Southland town's primary birthing unit have mystified locals and supporters of the centre.

Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker, who took a petition to Parliament which called for Lumsden's maternity services to be saved, yesterday released a large collection of emails and documents obtained under the Official Information Act which related to the regrading, a process carried out as part of the Southern District Health Board's region-wide review of maternity services.

One email, from an anonymised staff member of Gore Health Ltd sent in June to a redacted recipient or recipients, said no applications had been received to an advertisement for a midwife position at the soon-to-be-opened Lumsden maternal and child hub.

''I have subsequently followed up with the Gore midwives to see if they are interested. However, they have all declined,'' the email said.


''For some it was the distance to travel. However, the main reason given was a reluctance to work in the current 'bullying' environment that exists in Lumsden.''

The email also detailed an incident before the closure of the centre where lead maternity carers were ''confronted'' by centre staff and midwives.

''They felt that threatened that they left the facility and saw the women in their own homes,'' the email said.

''These are experienced, confident midwives who no longer feel safe to go into that environment.''

Two days later, Clutha Southland New Zealand First list MP Mark Patterson sent an email to executives at the SDHB and Gore Health, in which Patterson said he felt there was ''some justification'' for the concerns of the northern Southland community regarding their maternity services.

Patterson wrote that the outcomes from efforts to provide midwife cover had been ''disappointing to say the least'' and that he noted points around ''unsuccessful recruitment for Lumsden and 'toxic culture'.''

Yesterday, Walker said the culture in Lumsden had been one of fear, uncertainty and genuine concern for the safety of pregnant mothers and babies.

Carrie Williams, a director of Lumsden Maternity Centre operator the Northern Southland Health Company, said she was not aware of the issues raised in the emails.


''As long our as our facility was open, I am not aware of any allegations of a 'toxic culture' there ... I think they must be referring to the aftermath after the facility closed,'' she said.

''I have no doubt that afterwards there was a very strained relationship between midwives and the DHB.''