Classroom ideas - nuclear-free New Zealand

This page outlines how the feature on nuclear-free New Zealand could be used by teachers and students of social studies and history. Senior students, in particular may find this summary useful in helping to prepare then for those achievement objectives which explore the causes and consequences of historical events of significance to New Zealand and New Zealanders.

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Nuclear-free New Zealand 

From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s two key issues emerged in New Zealand about nuclear power. One was opposition to French nuclear tests at Mururoa and the second was opposition to American warships visiting New Zealand. In July 1985 the nuclear debate in New Zealand came to a head when French Secret Service agents sunk the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland harbour.

This feature is of great value to teachers and students working at various levels.

Social studies

Classes at Levels 4 and 5 could use the nuclear-free New Zealand debate to look at the causes and effects of a significant event or issue from New Zealand's past. How did the actions of people at this time influence the lives of individual people, and how was New Zealand society as a whole shaped by this event? How did New Zealanders participate individually and collectively in response to this issue? For New Zealand, what were the consequences of the decision to become nuclear-free? What was New Zealand's international profile as a result of this issue? This could be part of a broader study of New Zealand making a stand as a small nation, and it could be broken down into smaller parts that considered French testing and ship visits.

NCEA Level 1 history

The nuclear-free debate raised questions about New Zealand's acceptance of the nuclear umbrella, which had become an integral part of New Zealand's security in the period following the Second World War. Relationships with allies like the United States, Australia and Britain were strained as a result of New Zealand's increasingly anti-nuclear stand. This is a critical aspect of the popular topic, New Zealand's search for security 1945–1985.

This feature provides students with a context for:

  • Achievement standard 1.5: Describe the causes and course of the decisions to become nuclear-free and the consequences of this.
  • Achievement standard 1.6: The nuclear-free debate had a significant impact on the shaping of the identity of New Zealanders.
  • Achievement standard 1.3: There are numerous excellent historical sources relating to this event that can be used as practice for final assessment.

For more detail of specific activities relating to this topic go to Nuclear-free New Zealand activities – NCEA Level 1 history.

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