Cook Islands
(self-governing in free association with New Zealand)
[Country Flag of Cook Islands]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Cook Islands]

Cook Islands


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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

total: 240 sq km
land: 240 sq km
water: 0 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
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 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: 9%
permanent crops: 13%
permanent pastures: NA%
forests and woodland: NA%
other: 78% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: typhoons (November to March)

Environment—current issues: NA

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Law of the Sea
signed, but not ratified: NA


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Population: 19,989 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: NA
15-64 years: NA
65 years and over: NA

Population growth rate: 1.06% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 22.52 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 5.2 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: -6.71 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 24.7 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.14 years
male: 69.2 years
female: 73.1 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 3.19 children born/woman (1998 est.)

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: NA


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Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Cook Islands

Data code: CW

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, in consultation with the Cook Islands

Government type: self-governing parliamentary democracy

National 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, 4 August

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 of the UK (since 6 February 1952), represented by Apenera SHORT (since NA); New Zealand High Commissioner Jon JONESSEN (since NA January 1998), representative of New Zealand
head of government: Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey A. HENRY (since 1 February 1989); Deputy Prime Minister Inatio AKARURU (since 1 February 1989)
cabinet: Cabinet chosen by the prime minister; collectively responsible to Parliament
elections: none; the queen is a hereditary monarch; the queen's representative is appointed by the queen; 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

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament (25 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 6 March 1994 (next to be held by NA 1999)
election results: percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—Cook Islands Party 20, Democratic Party 3, Democratic Alliance Party 2
note: the House of Arikis (chiefs) advises on traditional matters, but has no legislative powers

Judicial branch: High Court

Political parties and leaders: Cook Islands Party, Geoffrey HENRY; Democratic Party, Sir Thomas DAVIS; Democratic Alliance Party, Norman GEORGE

International organization participation: AsDB, ESCAP (associate), FAO, ICAO, ICFTU, IFAD, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), IOC, Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UNESCO, WHO, WMO

Diplomatic representation in the US: none (self-governing in free association with New Zealand)

Diplomatic representation from the US: none (self-governing in free 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


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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, 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 made up for by remittances from emigrants and by foreign aid, overwhelmingly from New Zealand. In 1996, the government declared bankruptcy, citing a $120 million public debt. Efforts to exploit tourism potential and expanding the mining and fishing industries have not been enough to adequately deal with the financial crisis. In an effort to stem further erosion of the economy, the government slashed public service salaries by 50%, condensed the number of government ministries from 52 to 22, reduced the number of civil servants by more than half, began selling government assets, and closed all overseas diplomatic posts except for the one in New Zealand.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$79 million (1994 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: NA%

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$4,000 (1994 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 17%
industry: 6%
services: 77% (FY90/91)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 2.6% (1994 est.)

Labor force:
total: 6,601 (1993)
by occupation: agriculture 29%, government 27%, services 25%, industry 15%, other 4% (1981)

Unemployment rate: NA%

revenues: $NA
expenditures: $NA, including capital expenditures of $NA

Industries: fruit processing, tourism

Industrial production growth rate: NA%

Electricity—capacity: 6,000 kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 15 million kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 775 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: copra, citrus, pineapples, tomatoes, beans, pawpaws, bananas, yams, taro, coffee

total value: $4.2 million (f.o.b., 1994 est.)
commodities: copra, fresh and canned citrus fruit, coffee; fish; pearls and pearl shells; clothing
partners: NZ 80%, Japan, Hong Kong (1993)

total value: $85 million (c.i.f., 1994)
commodities: foodstuffs, textiles, fuels, timber, capital goods
partners: NZ 49%, Italy, Australia (1993)

Debt—external: $160 million (1994)

Economic aid:
recipient: roughly $16 million annually, 1985-95, with New Zealand furnishing 88% of the total

Currency: 1 New Zealand dollar (NZ$) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: New Zealand dollars (NZ$) per US$1—1.7283 (January 1998), 1.5083 (1997), 1.4543 (1996), 1.5235 (1995), 1.6844 (1994), 1.8495 (1993)

Fiscal year: 1 April—31 March


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Telephones: 4,180 (1994)

Telephone system:
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 1, shortwave 1

Radios: 13,000 (1994 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 1 studio and 8 low-powered repeaters achieve good coverage on the island of Rarotonga

Televisions: 3,500 (1995 est.)


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Railways: 0 km

total: 187 km
paved: 35 km
unpaved: 152 km (1980 est.)

Ports and harbors: Avarua, Avatiu

Merchant marine:
total: 1 cargo ship (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,464 GRT/2,181 DWT (1997 est.)

Airports: 7 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 6
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (1997 est.)


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Military—note: defense is the responsibility of New Zealand, in consultation with the Cook Islands and at its request

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: none