|Anthem: Te Atua Mou
God is Truth
(and largest city)
Cook Islands Māori
|Ethnic groups||87.7% Māori, 5.8% part Māori, 6.5% other |
|-||Head of State||Queen Elizabeth II|
Sir Frederick Goodwin
|-||Prime Minister||Jim Marurai|
|-||Self-government in free association with New Zealand||4 August 1965|
|-||Total||240 km2 (206th)
91 sq mi
|GDP (PPP)||2005 estimate|
|-||Total||$183.2 million (not ranked)|
|-||Per capita||$9,100 (not ranked)|
(Cook Islands dollar also used) (
|Drives on the||left|
The Cook Islands /ˈkʊk ˈaɪləndz/ (help·info) (Cook Islands Māori: Kūki 'Āirani) are a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand. The fifteen small islands in this South Pacific Ocean country have a total land area of 240 square kilometres (92.7 sq mi), but the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers 1.8 million square kilometres (0.7 million sq mi) of ocean.
The main population centres are on the island of Rarotonga (14,153 as of 2006), where there is an international airport. There is also a much larger population of Cook Islanders in New Zealand, particularly the North Island. In the 2006 census, 58,008 self-identified as being of ethnic Cook Island Māori descent.
With over 90,000 visitors travelling to the islands in 2006, tourism is the country's number one industry, and the leading element of the economy, far ahead of offshore banking, pearls, marine and fruit exports.
Defence is the responsibility of New Zealand, in consultation with the Cook Islands and at its request. In recent times, the Cook Islands have adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy.
The 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. There is a pluriform multi-party system and the islands are self-governing in free association with New Zealand and fully responsible for both internal and external affairs. New Zealand retains some responsibility for external affairs, in consultation with the Cook Islands. As of 2005, it has diplomatic relations in its own name with eighteen 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 American Samoa. 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 and two reefs are grouped as follows:
There are island councils on all of the inhabited outer islands (Outer Islands Local Government Act 1987, with amendments up to 2004 and Palmerston Island Local Government Act 1993) except Nassau, which is governed by Pukapuka (Suwarrow, with only one caretaker living on the island, also governed by Pukapuka, is not counted with the inhabited islands in this context). Each council is headed by a mayor.
|Aitutaki (including uninhabited Manuae)|
|Atiu (including uninhabited Takutea)|
|Pukapuka (including Nassau and Suwarrow)|
The three vaka councils of main island Rarotonga established in 1997 (Rarotonga Local Government Act 1997), that were also headed by mayors, were abolished in February 2008, despite much controversy
|Te au o tonga||(equivalent to Avarua, the national capital of the Cook Islands)|
On the lowest level, there are village committees. Nassau, which is governed by Pukapuka, has an island committee (Nassau Island Committee), which advises the Pukapuka Island Council on matters concerning its own island.
Spanish ships visited the islands in the 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 (Saint Bernard). Portuguese-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 1777 and named the islands the Hervey Islands; the name "Cook Islands", in honour of Cook, appeared on a Russian naval chart published in the 1820s.
The first recorded landing on Rarotonga 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. They 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. In that year, Albert Henry of the Cook Islands Party was elected as the first Prime Minister. Sir Albert Henry led the country until he was accused of vote-rigging. He was succeeded in 1978 by Tom Davis of the Democratic Party.
Today, the Cook Islands are essentially independent ("self-governing in free association with New Zealand") but New Zealand is tasked with overseeing the country's defence.
On June 11, 1980, the United States signed a treaty with the Cook Islands specifying the maritime border between the Cook Islands and American Samoa and also relinquishing its claim to the islands of Penrhyn, Pukapuka, Manihiki, and Rakahanga.
The languages of the Cook Islands include English, Cook Islands Maori, or "Rarotongan," and Pukapukan. Dialects of Cook Islands Maori include Penrhyn; Rakahanga-Manihiki; the Ngaputoru dialect of Atiu, Mitiaro, and Mauke; the Aitutaki dialect; and the Mangaian dialect. Cook Islands Maori and its dialectic variants are closely related to both Tahitian and to New Zealand Māori. Pukapukan, by contrast, is considered closely related to the Samoan language. Both English and Cook Islands Maori are considered official languages of the Cook Islands.
|1 January||New Year's Day|
|2 January||Day after New Year's Day|
|The Friday before Easter Sunday||Good Friday|
|The day after Easter Sunday||Easter Monday|
|25 April||ANZAC Day|
|The first Monday in June||Queen's Birthday|
|during July||Rarotonga Gospel Day|
|4 August||Constitution Day (Te Maevea Nui Celebrations)|
|26 October||Gospel Day|
|26 December||Boxing Day|
Carving - Woodcarving is a common art form in the Cook Islands. Sculpture in stone is much rarer although there are some excellent carvings in basalt by Mike Tavioni. The proximity of islands in the southern group helped produce a homogeneous style of carving but which had special developments in each island. Rarotonga is known for its fisherman's gods and staff-gods, Atiu for its wooden seats, Mitiaro, Ma'uke and Atiu for mace and slab gods and Mangaia for its ceremonial adzes. Most of the original wood carvings were either spirited away by early European collectors or were burned in large numbers by missionary zealots. Today, carving is no longer the major art form with the same spiritual and cultural emphasis given to it by the Maori in New Zealand. However, there are continual efforts to interest young people in their heritage and some good work is being turned out under the guidance of older carvers. Atiu, in particular, has a strong tradition of crafts both in carving and local fibre arts such as tapa. Mangaia is the source of many fine adzes carved in a distinctive, idiosyncratic style with the so-called double-k design. Mangaia also produces food pounders carved from the heavy calcite found in its extensive limestone caves.
Weaving - The outer islands produce traditional weaving of mats, basketware and hats. Particularly fine examples of rito hats are worn by women to church on Sundays. They are made from the uncurled immature fibre of the coconut palm and are of very high quality. The Polynesian equivalent of Panama hats, they are highly valued and are keenly sought by Polynesian visitors from Tahiti. Often, they are decorated with hatbands made of minuscule pupu shells which are painted and stitched on by hand. Although pupu are found on other islands the collection and use of them in decorative work has become a speciality of Mangaia. The weaving of rito is a speciality of the northern island of Penrhyn.
Tivaevae - A major art form in the Cook Islands is tivaevae. This is, in essence, the art of making of tropical Island scenery handmade patchwork quilts. Introduced by the wives of missionaries in the 19th century, the craft grew into a communal activity and is probably one of the main reasons for its popularity. The Cook Islands make some of the most beautiful displays of tivaevae the eye can see.
Contemporary Art - The Cook Islands has produced notable and internationally recognised contemporary artists and the main island of Rarotonga has an exceptionally vibrant contemporary arts scene. Those born of Cook Islander heritage include painter (and photographer) Mahiriki Tangaroa, sculptors Eruera (Ted) Nia (originally a film maker) and master carver Mike Tavioni, painter (and Polynesian tattoo enthusiast) Upoko’ina Ian George, Aitutakian-born painter Tim Manavaroa Buchanan, Loretta Reynolds, and multi-media, installation and community-project artist Ani O'Neil, all of whom currently live on the main island of Rarotonga. New Zealand-based Cook Islander artists include Michel Tuffrey, print-maker David Teata, Richard Shortland Cooper, and Jim Vivieaere, who has mentored many of his compatriots and is a well-known curator and installation artist. Most of these artists have studied at university art schools in New Zealand and continue to enjoy close links with the New Zealand art scene. However, Apii Rongo, a comparably younger painter, is developing his career entirely on Rarotonga.
Artists of non-Cook Islander heritage currently working in Rarotonga include Judith Kunzel, Joan Rolls Gragg and Kay George, who is also known for her exquisite fabric designs.
On Rarotonga, the main commercial galleries are Beachcomber Contemporary Art (Taputapuatea, Avarua) run by Ben Bergman, and The Art Gallery ('Arorangi), run by Kay and Ian George. The Cook Islands National Museum also exhibits art.
The National Flower of the Cook Islands is the Tiare māori or Tiale māoli (Penrhyn, Nassau, Pukapuka). The Cook Islands are infested with Polynesian rats. The infestation has devastated the bird population on the islands.
|Government||self-governing parliamentary democracy|
|Currency||New Zealand dollar (NZD)|
|Area||240 sq km|
|Population||21,388 (July 2006 est.)|
|Language||English (official), Maori|
|Electricity||240V/50Hz (Australian plug)|
The Cook Islands  are a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand, located in Polynesia, in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, between French Polynesia (Society Islands) to the east and Tonga to the west. It is an archipelago with 15 islands spread out over 2.2 million sq. km of ocean. Though quite far, there's no known land between the Cook Islands and Antarctica.
With the same time zone and latitude (disregarding north and south) as Hawaii, the islands are sometimes thought of as "Hawaii down under". Though smaller, it reminds some elderly visitors of Hawaii before statehood without all the large tourist hotels and other development.
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. In effect, New Zealand handles defense, foreign affairs (including passports), and currency; otherwise the islands are self-governing. This includes immigration, which is strictly controlled -- even for New Zealanders.
Many Cook Islanders will tell you how there are more Cook Islanders living in New Zealand and Australia than in the Cook Islands. The population of the Cook Islands is less than 15,000 but there are over 50,000 Cook Islanders living in New Zealand, and over 30,000 in Australia. Those remaining have often spent time in Auckland, Melbourne or Sydney before returning home.
Tropical. Rarotonga has average maximum temperatures of around 25C in winter and 29C in summer. Rainfall mostly occurs in summer, usually in the form of afternoon storms. Moderated by trade winds.
Tourism facilities are well developed on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, and information is available. However you won't see a single tout, and tourist scams are unheard of. If you want to organise something, it usually isn't hard to do, but you will need to make the first move.
There is a departure tax of NZ$55 per person adult and $15 per child between 2 and 12. It is only payable in cash. No tax is payable for children under 2.
You must have a reservation for accommodations pre-arranged, or risk being sent back (or onward) on the next flight out. Though immigration and customs may be a little less strict about this than in the past, and let you reserve at the airport by phone, if nothing is available you will be deported. Camping on the beach is not allowed.
Rarotonga International Airport (IATA: RAR) is the main gateway to the Cook Islands. There are daily services to Auckland (3.5 hours) and weekly services to Fiji and to Los Angeles. The only international airlines at present are Air New Zealand and twice-weekly Pacific Blue. Air New Zealand has code share arrangements with other Star Alliance members including United Airlines and Rarotonga is a popular stopover on Round the world flights.
See the Rarotonga article for airport details.
Rarotonga and Aitutaki are regular stops for cruises operating from Tahiti. Other cruise companies also stop by occasionally.
If you're planning to sail to the islands you must enter through one of the five designated ports of entry. These are Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu in the Southern group, and Penrhyn and Pukapuka in the Northern group.
Domestic inter-island service is provided by Air Rarotonga . Although you can book flights through Air New Zealand, it is usually cheaper to do so directly with Air Rarotonga. This has become much easier in the past few years, now that they offer online booking. Unless you're a member of Air New Zealand's "Airpoints Dollars" program, you won't receive any airline miles for Air Rarotonga -- and then only if you book through Air New Zealand, often at a higher price. Star Alliance mileage for Air Rarotonga is not available.
Most of the outer islands have only unpaved runways. However, landing won't be much rougher than that of a paved runway. If you've never landed on an unpaved runway before, it's nothing to be overly concerned about, and you've probably had a few rougher landings on a paved runway.
The intrepid traveler can visit all inhabited islands by inter island freighters, but these can be weeks apart or worse if you want to get the really remote islands. Details of services are published in local island newspapers.
There are no generally scheduled boat or ferry services between the inhabited islands.
There are two uninhabited islands - Takutea and Manuae. The only easy way for a visitor to get to Takutea is on the research vessel Bounty Bay operated by Rarotonga-based Pacific Expeditions, which has special permission to run occasional eco tours.
Languages: There are five living languages in the Cook Islands with English and Cook Islands Maori the official languages. Cook Islands Maori is called Rarotongan after the capital island and is the most widely spoken version of Maori in the Islands. Others are Penrhynese - unique to the Northern group island of Penrhyn and rapidly disappearing - and Rakahanga-Manihiki which is spoken by about 2,500 Cook Islanders only half of whom live on the two islands from which it takes its name. On the remote Northern group island of Pukapuka, the islanders have a unique language of their own called Pukapukan of which there is no written version. It is more like Samoan, and some of it can't even be understood by other Cook Islanders. But even there, English is spoken, albeit not widely. Children, though, are taught it in school.
At the very least, the visitor will quickly learn the usual greeting, "kia orana" which means "may you live long".
The Cook Islands use the New Zealand Dollar, but also issue their own banknotes and coinage, including the unusual $3 notes and the triangular $2 coins. Cook Islands money is only negotiable within the Cook Islands.
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 and tourism provide 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 some investment and growth.
Overall, much cheaper than nearby Tahiti, though anything imported will be expensive. This especially applies to fuel and to milk. There is no fresh milk made on the islands, and the only fresh milk available is air-freighted from New Zealand daily, and costs around $7.00. Locals generally get by with powdered or UHT milk.
Calling home can cost a bundle, due to the need of having a large satellite dish and related equipment on each sparsely populated island. Don't expect significant savings by Skype-out or VOIP callback, the rates using these services tend to the most expensive anywhere in the world.
Some of the hotels and resorts have Skype connections which can be used for reservations.
Try the islands' ika mata (raw tuna) with coconut milk, finely chopped vegetables. It is delicious!
Most of the outer islands turn off the entire electric system (blackout) overnight. Bring a flashlight (torch) with batteries.
Five day courses in traditional fibre arts are available.
Non-residents, even New Zealanders, require work permits. The Cook Islands has a problem with people of working age leaving the islands. Jobs are generally available in the tourism and hospitality sector.
There is also a possibility of volunteer work, in education and care.
No major hazards. Police are contactable on the emergency number 999.
Though the locals often go barefoot (they're experts at it!), it's not recommended beyond sandy beaches due to the sharp coral rocks. Use caution when climbing stairs that connect the lower parts of an island near the sea to the upper part above the cliffs. Some do not have railings on the edge, including platforms. Only the most acrophobic would be uncomfortable with this (they're plenty wide enough and not vertically "open"), but for children, the blind, and someone who's had too much to drink, the risk is extreme. On the platforms, avoid getting too close to the edge -- especially if you need a rest from climbing.
Motorcycle accidents cause many injuries and fatalities. Driving after dark has additional hazards due to poor visibility.
There is a hospital on Rarotonga, and a smaller one on Aitutaki, and some private medical practices operate in the islands. Medical care is limited on the outer islands. Ambulance emergency is on 998.
Try not to eat snappers, they may give you ciguatera. Mosquitoes are mostly a nuisance, though every few years there is a dengue fever outbreak in the wet season. No malaria, or other serious tropical diseases to worry about, (but do take dengue fever seriously during outbreaks).
Though the survey form given on arrival (and collected at departure) is optional, the airport staff will be very disappointed if you don't complete it. In case you've misplaced it, additional ones are available at the airport at departure.
The Cook Islands inhabitants are not behind the times. They have TV and Internet and they know very well what's going on in the world, so don't patronize them. German tourists on outer islands might be asked about Germany's "dark history", but they know very well that these times have gone a long time ago, and that modern Germany is an industrialized and democratic country.
Respect their religious habits; especially that nearly everything is closed on Sundays (with the exception of a few bars and shops).
Contrary to popular belief, the Cook Islands own history doesn't include head hunting but there was a large loss of life during the World War I (1914-1918) fighting with the British against Germany and Central Powers.
Internet access is expensive. Registering for dial-up access as a visitor will cost $25 and then $7 per hour after that.
GSM 900 band mobile roaming is available, provided your home GSM provider has a roaming agreement.
Public phones are available in the major towns. International calling charges are expensive.
Telecom Cook Islands (Oyster) offers Wi-Fi service in some hotels in Rarotonga and the airport. Prepaid cards in various denominations can be purchased from the hotels and the post office.
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!|