This page outlines how the material on New Zealand Music Month can be used by teachers and students of social studies and history. The material can be a springboard into further topics associated with the place of music in New Zealand culture and society and an examination of themes associated with national identity.

We welcome feedback.

On this page there are ideas for:


New Zealand Music Month began in 2001. Held in May each year, it showcases New Zealand music on radio and television and in live performances. It aims to boost the visibility and success of New Zealand music. It was developed to support the New Zealand music industry so that New Zealand talent could make a living from music and New Zealanders could hear more music from their own country.

A major concern was that commercial radio was saturated with overseas sounds and New Zealand performers needed support to have their material heard. In 1995 airplay for New Zealand songs on commercial radio registered at 1.6%. A campaign was begun for the introduction of a quota system that would force commercial radio stations to play more New Zealand music. By 2000 airtime for New Zealand music on commercial radio stations had increased to around 10% of programming, and by 2005 this figure had increased to nearly 23%. Some argued that these figures highlighted the success of New Zealand Music Month. Others argued that New Zealand music and artists had to stand or fall by their own merits and that a quota system was the wrong way to go – New Zealand music would sell if it was good enough.

The place of home-grown music in our society is another way of exploring what it is to be a New Zealander. What are the values and attitudes reflected in the type of music we make and listen to? These are important parts of a number of topics and themes taught in social studies and history that explore ideas associated with national identity.

Social studies

The current 'Culture and heritage' strand in the social studies curriculum is an ideal place for teachers to start incorporating New Zealand Music Month into their programmes. Music is an important part of cultural interaction. The impact of culture and heritage on identity can be explored by studying what contribution home-grown music has made to New Zealand's culture and heritage and how it has affected them.  

Music is also an important part of all cultural traditions. At junior levels, studying the variety of music of the many cultural groups living here would be an ideal way to begin. Children could consider the types of songs that exist and why we sing them. Older children could explore what songs say about us as a people or how our music has been influenced by the various groups that have settled here. The place of technology in introducing us to different sounds and how we have absorbed them into our own music is another possible approach. Is there a ‘Kiwi sound’? Another approach could be to explore the variety of styles or genres that make up New Zealand music.

Under the banner of 'Time, continuity and change' the influence of past events could be used to explore the evolution of music and its significance to New Zealand and New Zealanders. The issue of quotas and selling New Zealand music would make an ideal study for the achievement objectives in 'Resources and economic activities'.

'Place and environment' considers the consequences of the migration of people and ideas, and retaining musical traditions and ideas is important for people moving from one country to another. How have New Zealand's social and cultural expressions changed as a result of this movement of sounds and ideas?

Another angle could be to explore the whole issue of overseas music and its influence on our culture and society.

Classes making a decade study of life in New Zealand could incorporate some of the popular songs and artists of that period into their study.

Perhaps on a more controversial level, teachers might want to consider using Rod Derrett’s 1965 hit ‘Puha and Pakeha’ in setting the scene for a study of the Treaty of Waitangi. Consider the following lyrics:

I don’t give a hangi for the Treaty of Waitangi,
You can’t get fat on that – give me some Puha and Pakeha.

You take a little umu and you get it very hot,
You catch a little Pakeha and put him in a pot,
Cook him all up in your old home brew,
And what have you got? Kiwi Stew.

Could such a song be recorded now? Why or why not? What does it say about attitudes in the 1960s?


Some NCEA courses are ideal for using specific songs to illustrate wider points in the study. Music can also be used to set the scene for particular times and/or studies.

Here are a couple of examples of how music could be used in a specific topic:

NCEA Level 1: New Zealand's search for security 1945–85

Herbs ‘French letter’ is an ideal way of illustrating the depth of feeling regarding French nuclear testing in the Pacific. Likewise, Blam Blam Blam’s ‘There is no depression in New Zealand’ provides a snapshot of New Zealand in 1981. It became an anthem for the protest movement during and after the 1981 Springbok Tour, as did ‘Riot squad’ by the Newmatics. As a contrast, see the lyrics to the 1960 All Blacks song ‘On the rugged rugby-playing trail’.

Or, what about Kiri Te Kanawa singing to a TV audience of some 600 million at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana while on the same night riot police clashed with Springbok protestors outside Parliament?

NCEA Level 1: Race relations: Maori and Pakeha 1912–80

Consider the lyrics from Rod Derrett’s 1965 hit ‘Puha and Pakeha’ (quoted above under the social studies heading). These could be used to help set the scene for this topic or an  examination racial attitudes in the 1960s.

By the early 1980s Maori reggae bands like Dread Beat & Blood and Aotearoa were singing about issues like the Treaty of Waitangi and reflecting Maoritanga in their music.

NCEA Level 2: The growth of New Zealand identity 1890–1980

This topic has often been dominated by themes such as war and sport. A consideration of New Zealand music not only offers an alternative approach but also one that could be used in conjunction with these themes. What about looking at war songs, anthems or sporting songs?

An interesting aspect of New Zealand’s involvement in the South African (Boer) War was the outpouring of patriotic and imperial sentiments. There were songs, verse and dramatic productions supporting the war. Over 20 patriotic songs and productions were copyrighted in the names of their authors or composers during the war. Many songs had a distinctly New Zealand flavour. Boys of the Southern Cross, copyrighted in 1900, had a rousing chorus proclaiming 'We are the boys of the Southern Cross/ Our stars shine on our flags/ Emblazoned with the Union Jack/ To show we're Empire lads.' Other songs had titles like ‘The Boers have got my daddy’.

NCEA Level 2: Maori leadership in the 19th century

Tim Finn’s song ‘Parihaka’ focuses on the story of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi:

I know Te Whiti will never be defeated,
And even at the darkest hour,
His presence will remain,
I'll sing for you a song of Parihaka.