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Cook Islands

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The Cook Islands are a constitutional monarchy within the Realm of New Zealand.

Under the Cook Islands Constitution, the Queen in right of New Zealand (currently Queen Elizabeth II, since August 4, 1965) is Head of State of the Cook Islands. The Sovereign is represented by the Queen's Representative; as such, the Queen is the de jure head of state, holding several powers that are hers alone, while the Queen's Representative is sometimes referred to as the de facto head of state. The vice-regal position is currently held by Sir Frederick Goodwin.

The Queen's official title is: Elizabeth the Second, By the Grace of God, Queen of New Zealand and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

The heir apparent is Elizabeth II's eldest son, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales.



In 1965 Queen Elizabeth II became Head of State of the Cook Islands when the country obtained a position of free-association with New Zealand.

Article 2 of the Cook Islands Constitution states that "Her Majesty the Queen in Right of New Zealand shall be the Head of State of the Cook Islands."[1] The expression "in Right of New Zealand" refers directly to the constitutional concept of the "Realm of New Zealand," as described in the 1983 Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General of New Zealand, approved by the Cook Islands after consultation with New Zealand. In clause 1, the Realm of New Zealand is defined as including New Zealand, the self-governing state of the Cook Islands, the self-governing state of Niue, Tokelau and the Ross Dependency.

Thus, Queen Elizabeth II, by virtue of being Head of State of her entire Realm of New Zealand, as described in the Letters Patent, is also Head of State of that part of her Realm of New Zealand referred to in the Letters Patent as "the self-governing state of the Cook Islands."

The New Zealand - Cook Islands Joint Centenary Declaration states that:

Her Majesty the Queen as Head of State of the Cook Islands is advised exclusively by Her Cook Islands Ministers in matters relating to the Cook Islands... In all matters affecting the Realm of New Zealand, of which the Cook Islands and New Zealand are part, there will be close consultation between the Signatories.[2]


Royal succession is governed by the British Act of Settlement of 1701, which is part of New Zealand constitutional law. This legislation lays out the rules that the Monarch cannot be a Roman Catholic, nor married to one, and must be in communion with the Church of England upon ascending the throne.

Any change in the succession made by New Zealand would have no effect in the Cook Islands, unless separately ratified there; the Constitution of the Cook Islands provides that the Head of State provision cannot be altered without a two thirds majority in a referendum.

Queen's Representative and Governor-General

The Queen's Representative is the representative of the Queen of New Zealand. There is a separate representative of the New Zealand Government, and of the Cook Islands in New Zealand

— Professor Noel Cox

The Cook Islands shares the Sovereign with a number of Commonwealth realms. The Queen's constitutional roles have been almost entirely delegated to the Queen's Representative.

Originally the vice-regal was titled as High Commissioner and was appointed by the Governor-General of New Zealand on the recommendation of the Minister of the Government of New Zealand who was deemed responsible for matters relating to the Cook Islands, and after consultation with the Premier of the Cook Islands. In the early 1980s, the Cook Island Constitution was amended so that the words "Queen's Representative" were substituted for the word "High Commissioner,"[3] and the words "Prime Minister" were substituted for the word "Premier."[4] Further, the 1981 Constitution Amendment decreed that the Queen's representative was appointed directly by the Queen herself; not the Governor-General of New Zealand. The text states that "[there] shall be a representative of Her Majesty the Queen in the Cook Islands, to be known as the Queen's Representative [to be appointed] by Her Majesty the Queen..."[1]

Article 5 of the Constitution states that the Queen's Representative is to act on the advice of her Cook Islands Ministers: "The Queen's Representative in the performance of his functions as the representative of Her Majesty the Queen shall act on the advice of Cabinet, the Prime Minister, or the appropriate Minister as the case may be..."[1]

Over the Realm of New Zealand, the Letters Patent established the office of the Governor-General, and provide that the Governor-General is "[the Queen's] representative in [the] Realm of New Zealand" who may exercise his or her powers and authorities "without prejudice to the office, powers, or authorities of any other person who has been or may be appointed to represent [Her Majesty] in any part of [her] Realm of New Zealand and to exercise powers and authorities on [her] behalf."[5] However, the relationship between the Governor-General of New Zealand and the Queen's Representative is quite different. Under the Cook Islands' Constitution, executive power is "vested in Her Majesty the Queen in right of New Zealand... the executive authority of the Cook Islands may be exercised on behalf of Her Majesty by the Queen's Representative either directly or through officers subordinate to him.[1] This leaves the Governor-General with only an indirect constitutional role in the form of the defence and external affairs prerogatives, arising from the Governor-General's constitutional position in terms of the Realm as a whole. Any vice-regal powers and responsibilities in the Cook Islands are vested in the Queen's Representative, leaving the Governor-General with no substantive role in relation to the territory.

As a result, the current relationship of the Monarchy to the Cook Islands is effectively identical to that of any independent Commonwealth Realm, even though the Queen is still nominally head of state "in right of New Zealand".

Royal Assent

Royal Assent and proclamation are required for all acts of Parliament; usually granted by the Queen’s Representative.

Symbols of Monarchy

References to the Monarchy are commonplace in public life in the Cook Islands. There are references to the Crown in legal documents, Oaths of office taken by the Queen's Representative, Members of Parliament and Judges of the High Court, and prescriptions in the Constitution require allegiance to be sworn to the reigning Sovereign as the Head of State of the Cook Islands.

Unlike in the United Kingdom, the Queen's Official Birthday is a public holiday on the first Monday in June. The Queen's portrait appears on the obverse of coins, and all banknotes feature the portrait of the Queen as the watermark. However, only the $20 banknote bears her image as the main feature (Cook Islands use the New Zealand dollar).

The Queen undertook a royal tour of the Cook Islands between January 28 and January 29, 1974.


  1. ^ a b c d Constitution of the Cook Islands
  2. ^ Joint Centenary Declaration of the Principles of the Relationship Between New Zealand and the Cook Islands
  3. ^ Constitution Amendment (No 10) Act 1981-82
  4. ^ Constitution Amendment (No 9) Act 1980-81
  5. ^ Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General of New Zealand

See also


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