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Cook Islands country facts

Australia-Oceania Avarua 10,134 inhabitants 236 sq km 42.94 inhabitants/sq km NZ dollars (NZD) self-governing in free association with New Zealand population evolution



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.



Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about half way between Hawaii and New Zealand

Geographic coordinates

21 14 S, 159 46 W

Area (sq km)

total: 236 sq km
land: 236 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative (sq km)

1.3 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries (km)

0 km

Coastline (km)

120 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin


tropical oceanic; moderated by trade winds; a dry season from April to November and a more humid season from December to March


low coral atolls in north; volcanic, hilly islands in south

Elevation extremes (m)

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Te Manga 652 m

Natural resources


Land use (%)

arable land: 8.33%
permanent crops: 4.17%
other: 87.5% (2011)

Irrigated land (sq km)


Natural hazards

typhoons (November to March)

Environment - current issues


Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection

Geography - note

the northern Cook Islands are seven low-lying, sparsely populated, coral atolls; the southern Cook Islands, where most of the population lives, consist of eight elevated, fertile, volcanic isles, including the largest, Rarotonga, at 67 sq km

People and Society


noun: Cook Islander(s)
adjective: Cook Islander

Ethnic groups (%)

Cook Island Maori (Polynesian) 81.3%, part Cook Island Maori 6.7%, other 11.9% (2011 est.)

Languages (%)

English (official) 86.4%, Cook Islands Maori (Rarotongan) (official) 76.2%, other 8.3% (2011 est.)

Religions (%)

Protestant 62.8% (Cook Islands Christian Church 49.1%, Seventh-Day Adventist 7.9%, Assemblies of God 3.7%, Apostolic Church 2.1%), Roman Catholic 17%, Mormon 4.4%, other 8%, none 5.6%, no response 2.2% (2011 est.)


note: the Cook Islands' Ministry of Finance & Economic Management estimated the resident population to have been 13,700 in September 2013 (July 2014 est.)   evolution and prospects (1950-2100)

Age structure (%)

0-14 years: 22.8% (male 1,224/female 1,084)
15-24 years: 17.9% (male 971/female 845)
25-54 years: 38% (male 1,937/female 1,917)
55-64 years: 10.3% (male 555/female 487)
65 years and over: 10.6% (male 548/female 566) (2014 est.)

Age structure in Cook Islands

Median age (years)

total: 34.4 years
male: 33.8 years
female: 35 years (2014 est.)

Population growth rate (%)

-3% (2014 est.)

Birth rate (births/1,000 population)

14.7 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)

Death rate (deaths/1,000 population)

7.8 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)

Urbanization (%)

urban population: 73.5% of total population (2011)
rate of urbanization: 0.88% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Sex ratio (male(s)/female)

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.13 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.15 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.96 male(s)/female
total population: 1.07 male(s)/female (2014 est.)

Infant mortality rate (deaths/1,000 live births)

total: 14.33 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 17.43 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 11.08 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)

Life expectancy at birth (years)

total population: 75.38 years
male: 72.56 years
female: 78.33 years (2014 est.)

Total fertility rate (children born/woman)

2.27 children born/woman (2014 est.)

Health expenditures (% of GDP)

5.5% of GDP (2011)

Physicians density (physicians/1,000 population)

2.89 physicians/1,000 population (2009)

Drinking water source (% of population)

improved: urban: 99.9% of population
rural: 99.9% of population
total: 99.9% of population
unimproved: urban: 0.1% of population
rural: 0.1% of population
total: 0.1% of population (2012 est.)

Sanitation facility access (% of population)

improved: urban: 97.2% of population
rural: 97.2% of population
total: 97.2% of population
unimproved: urban: 2.8% of population
rural: 2.8% of population
total: 2.8% of population (2012 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate (%)


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths


Obesity - adult prevalence rate (%)

63.7% (2008)

Education expenditures (% of GDP)

3.1% of GDP (2011)

Literacy (%)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95%
male: NA
female: NA

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education) (years)

total: 13 years
male: 12 years
female: 13 years (2011)


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


name: Avarua
geographic coordinates: 21 12 S, 159 46 W
time difference: UTC-10 (5 hours behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions



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)


effective 4 August 1965 (Cook islands Constitution Act 1964); amended many times, last in 2004 (2004)

Legal system

common law similar to New Zealand common law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration (New Zealand normally retains responsibility for external affairs); accepts ICCt jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952) represented by Tom J. MARSTERS (since 9 August 2013); New Zealand High Commissioner Joanna KEMPKERS (since 19 July 2013)
head of government: Prime Minister Henry PUNA (since 30 November 2010)
cabinet: Cabinet chosen by the prime minister; collectively responsible to Parliament
elections: the monarchy is hereditary; the UK representative appointed by the monarch; the New Zealand high commissioner appointed by the New Zealand Government; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually becomes prime minister

Legislative branch

bicameral Parliament consists of a House of Ariki, or upper house, made up of traditional leaders and a Legislative Assembly, or lower house, (24 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
note: the House of Ariki advises on traditional matters and maintains considerable influence but has no legislative powers
elections: last held on 17 November 2010 (next to be held by 2014)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CIP 16, Demo 8

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Court of Appeal (consists of the chief justice and 3 judges of the High Court); High Court (consists of the chief justice and at least 4 judges and organized into civil, criminal, and land divisions)
note - appeals beyond the Cook Islands Court of Appeal are brought before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in London)
judge selection and term of office: High Court chief justice appointed by the Queen's Representative on the advice of the Executive Council tendered by the prime minister; other judges appointed by the Queen's Representative, on the advice of the Executive Council tendered by the chief justice, High Court chief justice, and the minister of justice; chief justice and judges appointed for 3-year renewable terms
subordinate courts: justices of the peace

Political parties and leaders

Cook Islands Party or CIP [Henry PUNA]
Democratic Party or Demo [Dr. Terepai MAOATE]

Political pressure groups and leaders

Reform Conference (lobby for political system changes)
other: various groups lobbying for political change

International organization participation


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

National anthem

name: "Te Atua Mou E" (To God Almighty)
lyrics/music: Tepaeru Te RITO/Thomas DAVIS
note: adopted 1982; as prime minister, Sir Thomas DAVIS composed the anthem; his wife, a tribal chief, wrote the lyrics


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, employing more than one-quarter of the working population, provides the economic base with major exports of copra and citrus fruit. Black pearls are the Cook Islands' leading export. 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)

$183.2 million (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate)

$183.2 million (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate (%)

0.1% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$9,100 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin (%)

agriculture: 5.1%
industry: 12.7%
services: 82.1% (2010 est.)

Labor force

6,820 (2001)

Labor force - by occupation (%)

agriculture: 29%
industry: 15%
services: 56% (1995)

Unemployment rate (%)

13.1% (2005)

Population below poverty line (%)


Household income or consumption by percentage share (%)

lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%


revenues: $70.95 million
expenditures: $69.05 million (FY05/06)

Taxes and other revenues (% of GDP)

38.7% of GDP (FY05/06)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) (% of GDP)

1% of GDP (FY05/06)

Inflation rate (consumer prices) (%)

2.2% (2011 est.)
2.2% (2011 est.)

Stock of narrow money

$38.99 million (31 December 2011 est.)
$38.99 million (31 December 2011 est.)

Stock of broad money

$148.2 million (31 December 2011 est.)
$170.9 million (31 December 2010 est.)

Agriculture - products

copra, citrus, pineapples, tomatoes, beans, pawpaws, bananas, yams, taro, coffee; pigs, poultry


fruit processing, tourism, fishing, clothing, handicrafts

Industrial production growth rate (%)

1% (2002)

Current account balance

$26.67 million (2005)


$5.222 million (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities (%)

copra, papayas, fresh and canned citrus fruit, coffee; fish; pearls and pearl shells; clothing


$83.49 million (2011 est.)
$80.55 million

Imports - commodities (%)

foodstuffs, textiles, fuels, timber, capital goods

External debt ($)

$141 million (1996 est.)

Exchange rates

Currency converter
NZ dollars (NZD) per US dollar -
1.247 (2013)
1.2659 (2011 est.)
1.3874 (2010)
1.6002 (2009)
1.4151 (2008)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March


Electricity - production (kWh)

31.13 million kWh (2010 est.)

Electricity - consumption (kWh)

28.95 million kWh (2010 est.)

Electricity - exports (kWh)

0 kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - imports (kWh)

0 kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity (kW)

8,090 kW (2010 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels (% of total installed capacity)

98.9% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels (% of total installed capacity)

0% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants (% of total installed capacity)

0% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources (% of total installed capacity)

1.1% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)

Crude oil - production (bbl/day)

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - exports (bbl/day)

0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Crude oil - imports (bbl/day)

0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves (bbl)

0 bbl (1 January 2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production (bbl/day)

0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption (bbl/day)

974 bbl/day (2011 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports (bbl/day)

0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports (bbl/day)

485 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Natural gas - production (cu m)

0 cu m (2011 est.)

Natural gas - consumption (cu m)

0 cu m (2010 est.)

Natural gas - exports (cu m)

0 cu m (2011 est.)

Natural gas - imports (cu m)

0 cu m (2011 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves (cu m)

0 cu m (1 January 2013 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy (Mt)

75,400 Mt (2011 est.)


Telephones - main lines in use

7,200 (2009)

Telephones - mobile cellular

7,800 (2009)

Telephone system

general assessment: Telecom Cook Islands offers international direct dialing, Internet, email, fax, and Telex
domestic: 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: country code - 682; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)

Broadcast media

1 privately owned TV station broadcasts from Rarotonga providing a mix of local news and overseas-sourced programs; a satellite program package is available; 6 radio stations broadcast with 1 reportedly reaching all of the islands (2009)

Internet country code


Internet hosts

3,562 (2012)

Internet users

6,000 (2009)



11 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 10
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 1 (2013)

Roadways (km)

total: 320 km
paved: 33 km
unpaved: 287 km (2003)

Merchant marine

total: 35
by type: bulk carrier 2, cargo 25, passenger 1, refrigerated cargo 6, roll on/roll off 1
foreign-owned: 23 (Estonia 1, Germany 1, Lithuania 1, Norway 8, NZ 2, Russia 1, Sweden 3, Turkey 4, UK 2) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Avatiu


Military branches

no regular military forces; National Police Department (2009)

Manpower fit for military service

males age 16-49: 2,198
females age 16-49: 2,156 (2010 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually

male: 127
female: 107 (2010 est.)

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of New Zealand in consultation with the Cook Islands and at its request

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international


Largest cities of Cook Islands

These are the 50 largest cities of Cook Islands ordered based on their number of inhabitants.

# City Population
1 Avarua 13,374