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, government deficits, and limited natural resources are of continuing concern.



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

Geographic coordinates

21 14 S, 159 46 W

Map references



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

Area - comparative

1.3 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 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


mean elevation: NA
elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Te Manga 652 m

Natural resources

coconuts (copra)

Land use

agricultural land: 8.4%
arable land 4.2%; permanent crops 4.2%; permanent pasture 0%
forest: 64.6%
other: 27% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land


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


9,556 (July 2016 est.)
note: the Cook Islands' Ministry of Finance & Economic Management estimated the resident population to have been 12,000 in December 2015


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.)


English (official) 86.4%, Cook Islands Maori (Rarotongan) (official) 76.2%, other 8.3%
note: shares sum to more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one answer on the census (2011 est.)


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.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 21.61% (male 1,093/female 972)
15-24 years: 17.2% (male 877/female 767)
25-54 years: 38.08% (male 1,822/female 1,817)
55-64 years: 11.34% (male 584/female 500)
65 years and over: 11.76% (male 554/female 570) (2016 est.)

Population growth rate

-2.88% (2016 est.)

Median age

total: 35.9 years
male: 35.3 years
female: 36.4 years (2016 est.)

Birth rate

14.1 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

8.3 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)


urban population: 74.5% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 0.88% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.12 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.14 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1.17 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.97 male(s)/female
total population: 1.07 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 13.5 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 16.3 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 75.8 years
male: 73 years
female: 78.8 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.21 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Health expenditures

3.4% of GDP (2014)

Physicians density

1.33 physicians/1,000 population (2009)

Drinking water source

urban: 99.9% of population
rural: 99.9% of population
total: 99.9% of population
urban: 0.1% of population
rural: 0.1% of population
total: 0.1% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 97.6% of population
rural: 97.6% of population
total: 97.6% of population
urban: 2.4% of population
rural: 2.4% of population
total: 2.4% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths


Obesity - adult prevalence rate

50% (2014)

Education expenditures

4% of GDP (2015)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 15 years
male: 14 years
female: 17 years (2014)


Country name

conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Cook Islands
etymology: named after Captain James COOK, the British explorer who visited the islands in 1773 and 1777

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 (Parliament of the Cook Islands) in free association with New Zealand


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


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)

Administrative divisions


National holiday

Constitution Day, first Monday in August (1965)


4 August 1965 (Cook Islands Constitution Act 1964); amended many times, last in 2004 (2016)

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
elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; UK representative appointed by the monarch; New Zealand high commissioner appointed by the New Zealand Government; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually becomes prime minister

National symbol(s)

a circle of 15, five-pointed, white stars on a blue field; national colors: blue, white

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament, formerly the Legislative Assembly (24 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms); note - the House of Ariki, a 24-member parliamentary body of traditional leaders appointed by the Queen's representative serves as a consultative body to the Parliament
elections: last held on 9 July 2014 (next to be held by 2018)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CIP 13, Demo 8, One Cook Islands Movement 2, 1 undecided

Political pressure groups and leaders

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

Judicial branch

highest resident 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 heard by 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 [William HEATHER]
One Cook Islands Movement [Teina BISHOP]

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 disas

GDP (official exchange rate)

$244.1 million (2010 est.)

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$244.1 million (2010 est.)
$183.2 million (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate

0.1% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$12,300 (2010 est.)
$9,100 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

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

Agriculture - products

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

Industrial production growth rate

1% (2002)


fruit processing, tourism, fishing, clothing, handicrafts

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: $86.9 million
expenditures: $77.9 million (2010)

Taxes and other revenues

35.6% of GDP (2010 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

3.7% of GDP (2010 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

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.)

Current account balance

$26.67 million (2005)


$3.125 million (2011 est.)
$5.163 million (2010 est.)

Exports - commodities

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


$109.3 million (2011 est.)
$90.62 million (2010 est.)

Imports - commodities

foodstuffs, textiles, fuels, timber, capital goods

Debt - external

$141 million (1996 est.)

Exchange rates

NZ dollars (NZD) per US dollar -
1.4279 (2015 est.)
1.441 (2014 est.)
1.4279 (2013 est.)
1.2187 (2013 est.)
1.23 (2012 est.)


Electricity - production

34 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

31.62 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

9,000 kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

99.5% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

0.5% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

530 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

528.2 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

200,000 Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total: 7,200
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 61 (2009)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total: 7,800
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 66 (July 2015 est.)

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 users

total: 6,000
percent of population: 61% (July 2015 est.)


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 1 (2015)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

E5 (2016)


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)


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

Military - note

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

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international