Cook Islands

Cook Islands
a group of islands in the S Pacific belonging to New Zealand. 21,317; 99 sq. mi. (256 sq. km).

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Cook Islands

Introduction Cook Islands -
Background: Named after Captain Cook, who sighted them in 1770, the islands became a British protectorate in 1888. By 1900, administrative control was transferred to New Zealand; in 1965 residents chose self-government in free association with New Zealand. The emigration of skilled workers to New Zealand and government deficits are continuing problems. Geography Cook Islands
Location: Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand
Geographic coordinates: 21 14 S, 159 46 W
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 240 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 240 sq km
Area - comparative: 1.3 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 120 km
Maritime claims: continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin territorial sea: 12 NM exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
Climate: tropical; moderated by trade winds
Terrain: low coral atolls in north; volcanic, hilly islands in south
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m highest point: Te Manga 652 m
Natural resources: NEGL
Land use: arable land: 17.39% permanent crops: 13.04% other: 69.57% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: NA sq km
Natural hazards: typhoons (November to March) Environment - current issues: NA Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Law of the Sea signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: the northern Cook Islands are seven low-lying, sparsely populated, coral atolls; the southern Cook Islands consist of eight elevated, fertile, volcanic isles where most of the populace lives People Cook Islands -
Population: 20,811 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: NA% 15-64 years: NA% 65 years and over: NA%
Population growth rate: NA% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: NA births/1,000 population
Death rate: NA deaths/1,000 population
Sex ratio: NA
Infant mortality rate: NA deaths/1,000 live births Life expectancy at birth: total population: NA years male: NA years female: NA years
Total fertility rate: NA children born/woman HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: NA% HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Cook Islander(s) adjective: Cook Islander
Ethnic groups: Polynesian (full blood) 81.3%, Polynesian and European 7.7%, Polynesian and non-European 7.7%, European 2.4%, other 0.9%
Religions: Christian (majority of populace are members of the Cook Islands Christian Church)
Languages: English (official), Maori
Literacy: definition: NA total population: 95% male: NA% female: NA% Government Cook Islands -
Country name: conventional long form: none conventional short form: Cook Islands former: Harvey Islands
Dependency status: self-governing in free association with New Zealand; Cook Islands is fully responsible for internal affairs; New Zealand retains responsibility for external affairs and defense, in consultation with the Cook Islands
Government type: self-governing parliamentary democracy
Capital: Avarua Administrative divisions: none
Independence: none (became self-governing in free association with New Zealand on 4 August 1965 and has the right at any time to move to full independence by unilateral action)
National holiday: Constitution Day, first Monday in August (1965)
Constitution: 4 August 1965
Legal system: based on New Zealand law and English common law
Suffrage: NA years of age; universal adult
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Frederick GOODWIN (since NA); New Zealand High Commissioner Kurt MEYER (since NA), representative of New Zealand note: on 12 February 2002, Prime Minister Terepai MAOATE was ousted following a vote of no-confidence; a four-party coalition is the third government since 1999 elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; the UK representative is appointed by the monarch; the New Zealand high commissioner is appointed by the New Zealand Government; following legislative elections, the leader of the party that wins the most seats usually becomes prime minister head of government: Prime Minister Dr. Robert WOONTON (since 12 February 2002); Deputy Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey HENRY (since 12 February 2002) cabinet: Cabinet chosen by the prime minister; collectively responsible to Parliament
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament (25 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) elections: last held NA June 1999 (next to be held by NA 2004) note: the House of Ariki (chiefs) advises on traditional matters and maintains considerable influence, but has no legislative powers election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - CIP 12, DAP 12, NAP 1
Judicial branch: High Court Political parties and leaders: Cook Islands People's Party or CIP [Geoffrey HENRY]; Democratic Alliance Party or DAP [Terepai MAOATE]; New Alliance Party or NAP [Norman GEORGE] Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization ACP, AsDB, ESCAP (associate), FAO,
participation: ICAO, ICFTU, IFAD, IFRCS (associate), IOC, OPCW, Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UNESCO, WHO, WMO Diplomatic representation in the US: none (self-governing in free association with New Zealand) Diplomatic representation from the none (self-governing in free
US: association with New Zealand)
Flag description: blue, with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and a large circle of 15 white five- pointed stars (one for every island) centered in the outer half of the flag Economy Cook Islands
Economy - overview: Like many other South Pacific island nations, the Cook Islands' economic development is hindered by the isolation of the country from foreign markets, the limited size of domestic markets, lack of natural resources, periodic devastation from natural disasters, and inadequate infrastructure. Agriculture provides the economic base with major exports made up of copra and citrus fruit. Manufacturing activities are limited to fruit processing, clothing, and handicrafts. Trade deficits are offset by remittances from emigrants and by foreign aid, overwhelmingly from New Zealand. In the 1980s and 1990s, the country lived beyond its means, maintaining a bloated public service and accumulating a large foreign debt. Subsequent reforms, including the sale of state assets, the strengthening of economic management, the encouragement of tourism, and a debt restructuring agreement, have rekindled investment and growth.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $105 million (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: NA%
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $5,000 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 17% industry: 7.8% services: 75.2% (2000 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.2% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 8,000 (1996) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 29%, industry 15%, services 56% note: shortage of skilled labor (1995)
Unemployment rate: 13% (1996)
Budget: revenues: $28 million expenditures: $27 million, including capital expenditures of $3.3 million (FY00/01 est.)
Industries: fruit processing, tourism, fishing Industrial production growth rate: NA% Electricity - production: 24 million kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100% hydro: 0% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 22.32 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: copra, citrus, pineapples, tomatoes, beans, pawpaws, bananas, yams, taro, coffee; pigs, poultry
Exports: $9.1 million (f.o.b., 2000)
Exports - commodities: copra, papayas, fresh and canned citrus fruit, coffee; fish; pearls and pearl shells; clothing
Exports - partners: Australia 34%, Japan 27%, New Zealand 25%, US 8% (2000)
Imports: $50.7 million (c.i.f., 2000)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, textiles, fuels, timber, capital goods
Imports - partners: NZ 61%, Fiji 19%, US 9%, Australia 6%, Japan 2% (2000)
Debt - external: $141 million (1996 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $13.1 million (1995); note - New Zealand continues to furnish the greater part
Currency: New Zealand dollar (NZD)
Currency code: NZD
Exchange rates: New Zealand dollars per US dollar - 2.3535 (January 2002), 2.3776 (2001), 2.1863 (2000), 1.8886 (1999), 1.8632 (1998), 1.5083 (1997)
Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March Communications Cook Islands - Telephones - main lines in use: 5,000 (1997) Telephones - mobile cellular: 0 (1994)
Telephone system: general assessment: NA domestic: the individual islands are connected by a combination of satellite earth stations, microwave systems, and VHF and HF radiotelephone; within the islands, service is provided by small exchanges connected to subscribers by open wire, cable, and fiber-optic cable international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 0 (1998)
Radios: 14,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: 2 (plus eight low-power repeaters) (1997)
Televisions: 4,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .ck Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 3 (2000)
Internet users: NA Transportation Cook Islands - Railways: 0 km Highways: total: 320 km (1992) paved: NA unpaved: NA
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: Avarua, Avatiu Airports: 7 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 1 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2001)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 6 1,524 to 2,437 m: 3 914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2001) Military Cook Islands -
Military - note: defense is the responsibility of New Zealand, in consultation with the Cook Islands and at its request Transnational Issues Cook Islands - Disputes - international: none

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Island group (pop., 1998 est.: 17,100), southern Pacific.

Located 2,000 mi (3,000 km) northeast of New Zealand, the 15 islands, scattered from north to south over 900 mi (1,450 km) of ocean, are divided into a southern group of eight islands, including Raratonga (the seat of government), and a northern group of seven. All of the northern Cooks are true atolls; most of the southern group have volcanic interiors. They were probably settled by Polynesians from Tonga and Samoa; there is evidence of a highly organized society с AD 1100. Capt. James Cook explored many of them during the 1770s. Established as a British protectorate in 1888, they were annexed by New Zealand in 1901. Self-government in free association with New Zealand was achieved in 1965.

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Cook Islands, flag of  self-governing island state in free association with New Zealand, located in the South Pacific Ocean. Its 15 small atolls and islands have a total land area comparable to that of a medium-sized city, but they are spread over about 770,000 square miles (2,000,000 square km) of sea—an area nearly as large as Greenland. Niue, the westernmost of the islands, is an administratively separate state. The administrative seat is Avarua, on the island of Rarotonga. Area (land only) 91.4 square miles (236.7 square km). Pop. (2006 prelim.) 19,569.


Relief and drainage
      Each island is the top of one or more volcanoes, but only on the largest islands do the plugs and craters of now-extinct volcanoes still dominate the skyline; the highest of these rises to 2,139 feet (652 metres) at Te Manga, on Rarotonga, an island only 4 miles (6 km) wide. Many of the other islands of the southern group (Aitutaki (Aitutaki Atoll), Atiu, Mangaia, Manuae (Manuae Atoll), Mauke, Mitiaro, Palmerston (Palmerston Atoll), and Takutea) show various combinations of atoll and high-island formation. In the northern group (Manihiki (Manihiki Atoll), Nassau (Nassau Island), Penrhyn (Penrhyn Atoll), Pukapuka (Pukapuka Atoll), Rakahanga (Rakahanga Atoll), and Suwarrow (Suwarrow Atoll)), all except Nassau are atolls, narrow and low-lying sandbanks resting on circular reefs around lagoons rich in marine life.

      Because the land areas are so small, there are no rivers, and only the largest islands have even small streams. There are small freshwater lakes on the high islands of Mangaia, Atiu, and Mitiaro; saltwater lagoons inside all the atolls; and fringing lagoons between most islands and their outer reefs. The rain that falls on the atolls permeates the island coral and is naturally stored in a lens-shaped layer above the heavier salt water. The islanders must rely on wells and rainwater storage tanks to conserve their limited sources of water.

      Soils on the low-lying atolls are very limited in depth and quality. Most of the high island of Rarotonga is ruggedly mountainous, with narrow valleys having small but fertile pockets of soil. The coast consists of makatea, or upraised coral reef, of limited fertility. Between the mountains and the coast, however, is a ring of fertile volcanic soil. On the other high islands, much of the area is likewise taken up by eroded central slopes encircled by makatea, but again there are areas of fertile soil between. The problem of erosion has been greatly accentuated by the planting of pineapples and other export crops on soils that, in the long term, are too fragile for plantation farming.

      All the islands lie within the tropics, though the southernmost just barely so. Because the Cook Islands are small, mid-ocean islands swept by the southeast trade winds (trade wind), temperatures are generally moderate. Mean annual temperatures on the southern island of Rarotonga are in the mid-70s F (about 24 °C), but on the northernmost island of Penrhyn they are in the low 80s F (about 28 °C).

      Seasons are not clearly differentiated. The English terms summer, winter, spring, and autumn are used, but Cook Islanders also recognize the traditional local patterns of prevailing winds, rainfall, and temperature. Precipitation, though erratic over the years, tends to be uniform across the various islands. It averages about 80 inches (2,000 mm) on Rarotonga, though with considerable difference between the windward and leeward sides of the central mountains; precipitation is slightly lower on Aitutaki and slightly higher on Penrhyn.

      A spectacular climatic hazard is the occurrence of tropical cyclones (locally called typhoons), which strike with destructive force between December and March about once or twice every 10 years. Less spectacular but at times equally destructive of agriculture are droughts, to which the northern group of islands is more vulnerable than the southern.

Plant and animal life
      Only a limited range of plant life thrives in the north, with coconuts and pandanus being predominant. On the fertile areas of the southern islands, a wide range of tropical fruits and vegetables flourishes. Indigenous species include taro, yams, bananas, breadfruit, and sweet potatoes. Introduced species—in many cases grown for export—include citrus fruits, tomatoes, pineapples, papayas, beans, and zucchini.

      The original Polynesian (Polynesian culture) settlers brought with them pigs, dogs, chickens, and a type of small rat. These are still the main fauna, though a few goats, horses, and other animals have also been introduced. Some native birds became extinct in the 19th century after Europeans introduced cats. The kakerori, or Rarotongan flycatcher, an attractive tiny bird unique to Rarotonga, had been reduced by the early 1990s to about 30 breeding pairs. By the early 21st century, however, efforts by a small group of conservationists and landowners had succeeded in increasing the kakerori population to a viable level again.


Ethnic groups and languages
      With the exception of the inhabitants of isolated Pukapuka (Pukapuka Atoll), who are of predominantly Samoan and Tongan descent, almost all Cook Islanders have mixed Polynesian ancestry. Intermarriage with European, Chinese, and African settlers was common in the early 19th century. There are two main indigenous Polynesian languages, one for the island of Pukapuka and the other (with dialectal variations) for all other islands. The latter, known as Cook Islands Maori, is an official language, as is English.

      Christian denominations account for nearly all religious affiliation. Just over half of the population belongs to the Cook Islands Christian (Congregational) Church. Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, Seventh-day Adventism, and Bahāʾī have smaller numbers of adherents.

Settlement patterns
      Most Cook Islanders live in villages, though some people (on Rarotonga particularly) live on their farms. The largest settlement is Avarua. The former indigenous houses of thatch and timber have been almost totally replaced by homes of cement and timber with iron roofs.

Demographic trends
      Life expectancy at birth is above 70 years for males and about 75 years for females. Natural increase is offset by emigration to New Zealand and Australia, though expatriates are counted among the Cook Islands' official population, of which they constitute almost half. Today more than twice as many persons of Cook Islands ancestry live in New Zealand than in the islands themselves.

      More than nine-tenths of the Cook Islands' population is native-born. The main nonindigenous population is of European origin by way of New Zealand. There is considerable internal migration from the smaller islands to Rarotonga, the most populous island, where there is generally full employment.


Agriculture and fishing
      Agricultural production consists primarily of small farming, either for domestic consumption or for shipment to New Zealand. Cassava, sweet potatoes, and other roots and tubers are the principal crops. Most commercial fishing is done by Taiwanese, South Korean, and Japanese vessels operating out of American Samoa, but there is widespread fishing for domestic consumption. Several species of tuna make up the primary catch.

Resources and power
      Phosphate is present on the floor of the Manihiki (Manihiki Atoll) lagoon, and there are vast deposits of manganese and cobalt and some other metals on the seabed near Manihiki. Exploratory mining operations began there in 1999. Imported fuels are utilized for energy production, though there is some use of solar and wind power.

Manufacturing and trade
      The small industrial sector includes clothing and shoe manufacturing and food processing, mainly for export to New Zealand. Cultured pearls and fish are by far the major exports. Machinery of various kinds, minerals and fuels, and food and live animals are significant imports. New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji are the leading sources of imports; major export destinations are Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.

Services, finance, and taxation
      The service sector dominates the economy, with tourism the largest single contributor. Visitors come mainly from New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Canada, and Europe. The second largest economic sector is international finance, as the Cook Islands are a major offshore tax haven. Government plays a significant part in the economy and is the largest employer. Taxes are moderate, foreign investment is encouraged, and foreign aid—largely from New Zealand—makes a significant contribution to the economy. The New Zealand dollar is the monetary unit of the Cook Islands.

      Each island has a network of roads; a paved road encircles Rarotonga and is served by public buses. Regular service by small aircraft connects all the larger islands. There are ports at Rarotonga (Avatiu), Penrhyn, Mangaia, and Aitutaki, but shipping schedules can be erratic. There is an international airport on Rarotonga.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      The Cook Islands is a self-governing state. Although New Zealand is nominally responsible for defense and for external affairs, the Cook Islands has nevertheless independently established diplomatic relations and entered into international treaties. The formal head of state is the British monarch, represented by an appointed delegate to the islands; the government of New Zealand also appoints a representative, known as the high commissioner. Day-to-day executive power is vested in a cabinet headed by the prime minister and appointed by the islands' unicameral Parliament. Parliamentary elections, with universal adult suffrage, are held every four years. The constitution, adopted in 1965, has been amended several times. A council of hereditary leaders, the House of Ariki (High Chiefs), advises the government on traditional matters of landownership, custom, and the like. The two main political parties are the Cook Islands Party and the Democratic Party.

Health and welfare
      Free medical services are available from government-owned hospitals or dispensaries on each island. Dental treatment is also free for schoolchildren. Diseases more commonly found in developed countries—diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, cirrhosis of the liver—are becoming more widespread.

      Education is free in government schools and compulsory between ages 5 and 15; some church schools operate in addition to those run by the government. Higher education is provided by a national teachers college and a nursing school, through apprenticeship programs, and through an extension centre of the University of the South Pacific at Avarua. Many overseas scholarships are provided by the government and by overseas donors. The vast majority of the people are literate.

Cultural life
      The government plays an active role in cultural life, particularly in the sponsorship of song and dance festivals for which the islands are renowned. A small library and museum in Avarua provide additional cultural attractions. Owing to tourism and intensive interaction with neighbouring industrialized nations, much international (generally Western) culture has been incorporated into daily life. Nevertheless, traditional ceremonies, such as that celebrating the first haircut of the favourite son in a family, are as vibrant as ever. The islands' distinctive cuisine draws on the traditions of Europe, China, Fiji, and Tahiti. Christian tradition, some of it a legacy of the English Victorian era, is strongly manifest, and modern American-derived evangelistic services and rituals are common. The major national holiday is Constitution Day, which usually gives rise to a 10-day celebration. A Tiare (“Gardenia”) Festival, a parade of floats, and a series of song and dance competitions fill the annual calendar of festivities.

      The government-owned Cook Islands Broadcasting Corporation provides radio and television service in English and Maori. Much of the television programming comes from New Zealand. There is also a private FM radio station. The only daily newspaper, formerly government-owned, was privatized in 1989; other newspapers are published weekly or fortnightly.

      Polynesians, mainly from the area now known as French Polynesia, were the only inhabitants of the Cook Islands until the 19th century. With only minor exceptions, each island was autonomous, and within each of the larger islands there were several competing ethnic communities. Spanish explorers visited several islands in the northern group in the late 1500s and early 1600s but did not stay. Capt. James Cook (Cook, James) was the first European to call at most of the islands in the southern group, in 1773, 1774, and 1777.

      English and Tahitian missionaries of the London Missionary Society began arriving in 1821 and were the first foreigners to settle. A number of important ariki (chiefs) were converted to Christianity early on. The missionaries established a theological college on Rarotonga and exerted a strong influence on the form of government that evolved in each of the islands over the next half century.

      Fear of a French takeover, such as that which had occurred in nearby Tahiti and some of the other Society Islands, prompted some chiefs to petition the United Kingdom (British Empire) to declare a protectorate over the Cook Islands. The British government eventually complied in 1888, and a single federal parliament was established. This was the first time that these scattered islands had come under a united government.

      New Zealand was keen to annex the Cook Islands, but the United Kingdom would not agree to this except on certain conditions, one of which was that the request for annexation must come from the Cook Islands. With some persuasion from New Zealand, chiefs of the largest islands petitioned for annexation, which was undertaken in 1901. After 1912 the federal parliament was allowed to lapse, and no direct representation at the national level occurred again until 1946, when a Legislative Council was organized. In 1957 its powers were extended and its name changed to the Legislative Assembly (a 1981 constitutional amendment changed the name again, to Parliament). In 1965 the Cook Islands moved to self-government but retained a relationship of free association with New Zealand.

      In the second half of the 20th century, the Cook Islands, with the help of New Zealand, worked on improving infrastructure and social conditions and developing the economy, including tourism. The change in status in 1965 brought greater autonomy, and the Cook Islands began developing relationships with the countries of the region. The islands entered into treaties as an independent political entity, became a founding member of the South Pacific Forum (from 2000, the Pacific Islands Forum) in 1971, and joined other international organizations, including UNESCO and the Asian Development Bank.

Ronald G. Crocombe Marjorie Tuainekore Crocombe Sophie Foster

Additional Reading
Norman Douglas and Ngaire Douglas, Cook Islands: A Guide, 2nd ed. (1990), and Pacific Islands Yearbook, 17th ed. (1994), are general sources. David Stanley, Tahiti: Including the Cook Islands, 5th ed. (2003), is a guidebook. Ngatupuna Kautai et al., Atiu: An Island Community (1984, reprinted 1992), describes one of the islands in greater detail. Richard Gilson, The Cook Islands, 1820–1950 (1980), is a historical survey; and Ron Crocombe (ed.), Cook Islands Politics: The Inside Story (1979), discusses political trends.Sophie Foster

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Universalium. 2010.

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