'This is about safety' - Angry Southland mums band together to save local birthing unit

Mothers in Southland are fighting to save their rural birthing unit after the District Health Board proposed a possible downgrade.

The Lumsden Maternity Centre may no longer be offering a birthing service, meaning women will be forced to drive for hours to get to the nearest centre - the very same one that former Prime Minister Bill English was born at in fact.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker says it's about women being able to safely give birth as the long drive would mean some women could end up giving birth on the side of the road.

"At the end of the day this is about safety and would the Prime Minister be happy driving from Morrinsville to Auckland, 130 km, to give birth?

"If it's not acceptable to her then it's not acceptable for rural women." he said.

Changes to the maternity centre means it will only provide before and after birth care so pregnant women will be driving anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours for the nearest birthing facilities.

Rural midwives like Sarah Stokes say the changes will seriously impact the ability for her to do her job well.

"As a rural midwife I'm really concerned about being able to provide safe care to all those women over such a spread," she says.

A petition has been started to stop the proposed changes and already has 3,500 signatures.

The DHB has proposed to downgrade the Lumsden Maternity Centre to no longer include births. Source: 1 NEWS