Teachers say they're ready for public debate about what New Zealand history will soon be taught to all children.

The Government on Thursday announced that from 2022 New Zealand history will become part of the national curriculum for primary and secondary schools.

Topics that will be covered are likely to include the arrival of Māori, early colonisation, the Treaty of Waitangi, immigration and later history.

Currently New Zealand has no compulsory history at schools, a position that's been described as unique and baffling by local historians and prompted recent petitions calling for change.


The announcement has received broad backing across politics, with the National Party on Thursday saying the Government's decision to teach more history was a step forward for the country.

But the National Party's education spokeswoman, Nikki Kaye, says a significant public debate is now in order to decide exactly what will be taught, and the Government needs to show it has a plan to allow that to happen.

"This isn't like another area of the curriculum. It cuts to the core of national identity, who we are and where we come from … It can't be a once-over-lightly," Kaye said.

"There will be a very healthy debate about the content of the New Zealand history curriculum and we believe it's really important to invest in experts, educators and the public having a decent debate about the content."

Kaye admitted such a public debate could be emotional for some.

"There will be aspects of our history for which that will be challenging, and that's healthy for the country to work through that," she said.

"What's important is doing that in a very respectful way."

The New Zealand History Teachers' Association this year delivered a petition to Parliament calling for more history to be taught.


Its chairman, Graeme Ball, says long-frustrated teachers were on Thursday comparing the announcement to seeing the Berlin Wall fall.

And he said historians would welcome Kaye's call for a public debate.

"It can only be good, because if anything it'll get people more interested and engaged in our history and talking about it," Ball said.

"History is based on arguments. That's its driving energy. So there would be no one in the history community who would be afraid of robust debate. In fact, they would welcome it."

Ball, too, accepted a public debate could cause some heated debate, but said it was nothing to worry about.

"Bring it on. Let them bring their controversial perspectives forward," he said.

The Government on Thursday said the content for the curriculum would be put together with input from experts, iwi, Pacific communities, teachers, students and parents.

The New Zealand Principals Federation, meanwhile said it was "delighted" with the announcement.

"If you really get underneath this idea of teaching history, it's actually about changing hearts and minds and the mind-set of what is actually a racist education system," federation president Whetu Cormick said.

Separately, Kaye said she was concerned the Government had also not set aside separate funding for the changes yet, but was going to run them out of baseline education funding this year.

"You need to resource the curriculum, but also support for teachers to be able to deliver this," Kaye said.