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Cook Islands,island group (2006 pop. 19,569), 90 sq mi (234 sq km), S Pacific, SE of Samoa; a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand. It consists of 15 small islands and is comprised of two main groups, the Southern (or Lower) Cook islands (RarotongaRarotonga
, formerly Goodenough's Island,
volcanic island (2006 pop. 15,153), 26 sq mi (67 sq km), South Pacific, capital of the Cook Islands. The most southwesterly of the group, it is also the largest, most important, and by far the most populous.
..... Click the link for more information. , Mangaia, Atiu, Aitutaki, Mauke, Mitiaro, and Manuae and Te-Au-o-tu) and the Northern Cook islands (Nassau, Palmerston, Penrhyn, ManihikiManihiki
, atoll, c.2 sq mi (5.2 sq km), South Pacific, in the Cook Islands. It comprises 12 islets; the whole group that includes Manihiki and Penrhyn is also often designated Manihiki. Manihiki was discovered in 1822 by Americans and became a British protectorate in 1889.
..... Click the link for more information. , Rakahanga, Pukapuka, and Suwarrow). The islands were formerly called the Hervey Islands. AvaruaAvarua,
town (est. pop. 2,600), capital, largest town, and main port of the Cook Islands, located on the N coast of Rarotonga. A trading center for locally produced fruit and fish, it is also a tourist hub.
..... Click the link for more information. , on Rarotonga, is the capital and administrative center of the group. The southern half of the state's waters, an area encompassing some 411,000 sq mi (1.065 million sq km), were declared a marine park in 2012. The Cook Islanders are Maoris, a Polynesian people, and are largely Christians. English is the official language and Maori is also spoken.
Agriculture employs about one third of the people. Fruits and vegetables are grown, and pigs and poultry are raised. Food processing, tourism, and fishing are the major industries. Black pearls, copra, papayas, citrus fruits and juices, coffee, fish, clothing, and handicrafts are the principal exports. Foodstuffs, textiles, fuels, timber, and capital goods are imported. Beginning in the 1980s the islands also became a popular tax haven and offshore banking center, but in 2003 the government moved to increase regulation of offshore banks as a result of international pressure. Large numbers of workers emigrate to New Zealand and their remittances are also an important source of income. Government spending is important to the economy, and more than 60% of the labor force work in the public sector. The Maoris generally work their own land.
The Cook Islands are governed under the constitution of 1965. The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Island is the head of state and appoints a British representative. The prime minister heads the government. There is a bicameral parliament. Members of the 25-seat Legislative Assembly are elected by popular vote for five-year terms. The 15-member House of Ariki (hereditary chiefs) is a purely consultative body that advises on traditional matters. New Zealand, represented by a high commissioner, is responsible for foreign affairs and defense in consultation with the Cook Islands government.
The southern islands were probably occupied by the Polynesians c.1,500 years ago. Spaniards visited the islands in the late 16th and early 17th cent. Capt. James CookCook, James,
1728–79, English explorer and navigator. The son of a Yorkshire agricultural laborer, he had little formal education. After an apprenticeship to a firm of shipowners at Whitby, he joined (1755) the royal navy and surveyed the St.
..... Click the link for more information. sighted some of the islands in 1773; others remained unknown to European explorers until the 1820s. The London Missionary Society was a powerful influence in the southern islands during the 19th cent. The islands were proclaimed a British protectorate in 1888 and were annexed by New Zealand in 1901. The Cook Islands achieved internal self-government in 1965 and are free to unilaterally declare their complete independence. An economic crisis in the mid-1990s led to outmigration and a significant drop in the islands population.
an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, located in Polynesia. Administratively under New Zealand sovereignty. The 15 islands subdivide into the Northern and Lower Cook groups, situated between 8° and 23°S lat. Area, 240 sq km.
The most important and populated islands of the Lower group are Rarotonga (67 sq km) and Mangaia (52 sq km). The Lower islands are primarily volcanic (maximum elevation, 643 m on Rarotonga). The Northern islands are coral atolls. The climate is tropical trade wind, mild and moist. The difference in seasonal temperatures (7° C) on Rarotonga is one of the lowest on earth. Population, more than 20,000 (1968): primarily Polynesian. There is fishing here, as well as the gathering of copra, pearls, mother-of-pearl, tortoise shells, and arrowroot. Bananas, oranges, and pineapples are grown.
The administrative center is Avarua on Rarotonga. The Cook Islands were discovered in 1773–74 by the British seafarer J. Cook; the Suvorov Atoll was discovered by the Russian seafarer M. P. Lazarev in 1814.