Cook Islands

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Countries; Geography of Oceania (Australasia)

Cook Islands
Kūki 'Āirani
Flag of Cook Islands Coat of arms of Cook Islands
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: Te Atua Mou E (God is Truth)
Location of Cook Islands
Capital Avarua
21°12′S 159°46′W
Largest city Avarua (10,000 (est))
Official languages English, Cook Islands Māori
Government Constitutional monarchy
 - Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II
 - Queen's Representative: Sir Frederick Goodwin
 - Prime Minister: Jim Marurai
 - Total 236 km² ( 209th)
 sq mi 
 - March 2006 estimate 18,700 ( 218th in 2005)
 - 2001 census 18,027
 - Density 76/km² ( 117th)
/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $183.2 million ( not ranked)
 - Per capita $9,100 ( not ranked)
HDI  (1998) 0.822 () ( 62)
Currency New Zealand dollar
( Cook Islands dollar also used) ( NZD)
Time zone ( UTC-10)
Internet TLD .ck
Calling code +682

The Cook Islands ( Cook Islands Māori: Kūki 'Āirani) are a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand. The 15 small islands in this South Pacific Ocean country have a total land area of 240 square kilometres (92.7  sq. mi).

Tourism is the country's number one industry, the leading element of the economy, far ahead of offshore banking, pearls, marine and fruit exports. A popular art form on the islands is tivaivai, often likened to quilting.

Defence is the responsibility of New Zealand, in consultation with the Cook Islands and at its request. In recent times, the Cook Islands has adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy.


Politics of the Cook Islands takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic associated state, whereby the Queen of New Zealand, represented in the Cook Islands by the Queen's Representative, is Head of State, and the Chief Minister is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. The Islands are self-governing in free association with New Zealand and are fully responsible for internal affairs. New Zealand retains some responsibility for external affairs, in consultation with the Cook Islands. In recent years the Cook Islands has taken on more of its own external affairs and as of 2005 has diplomatic relations in its own name with 18 other countries. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of the Cook Islands.

The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.


The Cook Islands are in the South Pacific Ocean, north-east of New Zealand, between French Polynesia and Fiji. There are fifteen major islands, spread over 2.2 million square kilometres of ocean, divided into two distinct groups: the Southern Cook Islands, and the Northern Cook Islands of coral atolls.

The islands were formed by volcanic activity; the northern group is older and consists of six atolls (sunken volcanoes topped by coral growth). The climate is moderate to tropical.

The 15 islands are grouped as follows:

  • High Cook Islands
    • Aitutaki
    • Atiu (Enua-Manu or Island of Birds)
    • Mangaia
    • Mauke
    • Rarotonga (with capital, Avarua)
  • Low islands of the Southern group
    • Manuae
    • Mitiaro
    • Takutea
  • Northern Cook Islands
    • Manihiki
    • Nassau
    • Palmerston Island
    • Penrhyn Island also known as Tongareva
    • Pukapuka
    • Rakahanga
    • Suwarrow also called Suvorov


Scene on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands
Scene on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands were first settled in the sixth century by Polynesian peoples who migrated from nearby Tahiti, to the southeast.

Spanish ships visited the islands in the late sixteenth century; the first written record of contact with the Islands came with the sighting of Pukapuka by Spanish sailor Álvaro de Mendaña in 1595 who called it "San Bernardo". Another Spaniard, Pedro Fernández de Quirós, made the first recorded European landing in the islands when he set foot on Rakahanga in 1606, calling it "Gente Hermosa" (Beautiful People).

British navigator Captain James Cook arrived in 1773 and 1779; Cook named the Cook Islands the Hervey Islands; the name ‘Cook Islands’ was given by the Russians in honour of Cook when they published a Russian naval chart in the early 1880s.

In 1813 Cook, on the Endeavour made the official sighting of the Island Rarotonga. The first recorded landing by Europeans was in 1814 by the Cumberland; trouble broke out between the sailors and the Islanders and many were killed on both sides.

The islands saw no more Europeans until missionaries arrived from England in 1821. Christianity quickly took hold in the culture and many islanders continue to be Christian believers today.

The Cook Islands became a British protectorate at their own request in 1888, mainly to thwart French expansionism. Then were transferred to New Zealand in 1901. They remained a New Zealand protectorate until 1965, at which point they became a self-governing territory in free association with New Zealand. The first Prime Minister Sir Albert Henry led the county until 1978 when he was accused of vote-rigging.

Today, the Cook Islands are essentially independent, (self-governing in free association with New Zealand) but are still officially placed under New Zealand sovereignty. New Zealand is tasked with overseeing the country's foreign relations and defence. The Cook Islands are one of three New Zealand dependencies, along with Tokelau and Niue.

After achieving autonomy in 1965, the Cook Islands elected Albert Henry of the Cook Islands Party as their first Prime Minister. He was succeeded in 1978 by Tom Davis of the Democratic Party.

On June 11, 1980, the United States signed a treaty with New Zealand specifying the maritime border between the Cook Islands and American Samoa and also relinquishing its claim to the islands of Penrhyn, Pukapuka (Danger), Manihiki, and Rakahanga.

In 2006, the British television station Channel 4 broadcast the show Shipwrecked (TV series), which was filmed in the Cook Islands.

The Fall 2006 (13th) season of CBS's Survivor was filmed in the Cook Islands over the summer of the same year ( Survivor: Cook Islands).


Float parade during the annual Maeva Nui celebrations
Float parade during the annual Maeva Nui celebrations

See also: music of the Cook Islands

Date Name
January 1 New Year's Day
January 2 Day after New Year's Day
The Friday before Easter Sunday Good Friday
The Day after Easter Sunday Easter Monday
April 25 ANZAC Day
The First Monday in June Queen's Birthday
July Rarotonga Gospel Day
August 4 Constitution Day
October 26 Gospel Day
December 25 Christmas
December 26 Boxing Day


See also Rugby league in the Cook Islands

Rugby league is a popular sport in the Cook Islands.

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