Cook Islands facts on every entity in the world

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

Area 215/257

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:

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


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.)

Population 224/238


note: the Cook Islands' Ministry of Finance & Economic Management estimated the resident population to have been 13,700 in September 2013 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 22.15% (male 1,154/female 1,025)

15-24 years: 17.64% (male 929/female 806)

25-54 years: 38.05% (male 1,876/female 1,867)

55-64 years: 10.81% (male 569/female 494)

65 years and over: 11.36% (male 551/female 567) (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 35.25 years

male: 34.6 years

female: 35.7 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 233/233

-2.95% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 137/224

14.33 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 97/225

8.03 deaths/1,000 population (2015 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: 1.13 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.15 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.15 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.97 male(s)/female

total population: 1.07 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 109/224

total: 13.87 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 16.86 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 10.73 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 96/224

total population: 75.6 years

male: 72.78 years

female: 78.56 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 98/224

2.23 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Health expenditures 175/191

3.1% of GDP (2013)

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 3/191

50% (2014)

Education expenditures 137/173

3.1% of GDP (2011)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 15 years

male: 16 years

female: 15 years (2012)


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

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)


4 August 1965 (Cook Islands Constitution Act 1964); amended many times, last in 2004 (2015)

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

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

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 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 [William HEATHER]

One Cook Islands Movement [Teina BISHOP]

Political pressure groups and leaders

Reform Conference (lobby for political system changes)

other: various groups lobbying for political change

International organization participation


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 symbol(s)

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

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) 218/230

$244.1 million

$183.2 million (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate)

$244.1 million (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 197/225

0.1% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 123/230


$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


fruit processing, tourism, fishing, clothing, handicrafts

Industrial production growth rate 146/202

1% (2002)

Labor force 219/233

6,820 (2001)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 29%

industry: 15%

services: 56% (1995)

Unemployment rate 142/207

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 (FY05/06)

Taxes and other revenues 56/219

35.6% of GDP (FY05/06 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 10/220

3.7% of GDP (FY05/06 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 119/226

2.2% (2011 est.)

Stock of narrow money 190/192

$38.99 million (31 December 2011 est.)

$38.99 million (31 December 2011 est.)

Stock of broad money 191/193

$148.2 million (31 December 2011 est.)

$170.9 million (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance 52/197

$26.67 million (2005)

Exports 220/224

$3.125 million (2011 est.)

$5.163 million (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities

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

Imports 215/223

$109.3 million (2011 est.)

$90.62 million (2010 est.)

Imports - commodities

foodstuffs, textiles, fuels, timber, capital goods

Debt - external 192/206

$141 million (1996 est.)

Exchange rates

NZ dollars (NZD) per US dollar -

1.45 (2014 est.)

1.22 (2013 est.)

1.22 (2013 est.)

1.23 (2012 est.)

1.26 (2011 est.)


Electricity - production 211/220

31.13 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 211/219

28.95 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 129/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 139/219

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 209/214

8,040 kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 46/214

99.5% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 76/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 168/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 101/212

0.5% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 123/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 114/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 179/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 122/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 172/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 208/212

500 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 172/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 205/213

484.7 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 176/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 135/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 86/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 186/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 129/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 204/212

150,300 Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 202/219

total: 7,200

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 61 (2009)

Telephones - mobile cellular 213/217

total: 7,800

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 66 (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)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 1, FM 1, shortwave 0 (2004)

Television broadcast stations

1 (outer islands receive satellite broadcasts) (2004)

Internet country code


Internet hosts 150/232

3,562 (2012)

Internet users 216/217

total: 674

percent of population: 6.7% (2014 est.)


Airports 153/236

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 205/223

total: 320 km

paved: 33 km

unpaved: 287 km (2003)

Merchant marine 81/156

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 and Security

Military branches

no regular military forces; National Police Department (2009)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international