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Map of Cook Islands

Map of Cook Islands.
flag of the Cook Islands.

Cook Islands


New Zealand and the Cook Islands have a special relationship founded on close historical ties, unique constitutional arrangements and a common citizenship and currency.  The Cook Islands became a dependent territory of New Zealand in 1901 when it was annexed.  In 1965 the Cook Islands adopted a Constitution ending that dependency status and today the country is self-governing in free association with New Zealand.  Free association is a status distinct from that of full independence which allows the Cook Islands to maintain New Zealand citizenship while making its own laws and conducting its own affairs.  The most recent codification of the principles underpinning the partnership between New Zealand and the Cook Islands is set out in the Joint Centenary Declaration, signed by the Prime Ministers of both countries in 2001. 

The close bilateral relationship is cemented through strong people to people ties, including cultural and kinship ties between New Zealand and Cook Islands Māori people.  Approximately 62,000 Cook Island Māori now live in New Zealand (2013).  The two governments agreed to establish regular ministerial-level consultations to underline the special constitutional ties and progress matters of mutual interest.  The third Joint Ministerial Forum was held in February 2014 in Aitutaki.

Bilateral links

Trade and economic

In 2013 New Zealand’s total trade with the Cook Islands came to $98 million.  The vast bulk of that trade ($97 million) is comprised of New Zealand exports to the Cook Islands, with only $1 million exports from the Cook Islands to New Zealand in 2013.  Exports from the Cook Islands to New Zealand consist of fish, pearls, fruit and maire, while New Zealand’s main exports to the Cook Islands are food and beverages, fuel, machinery, transport and equipment.

Tourism is vital to the Cook Islands economy and is estimated to account for around 60% of GDP.  However, its narrow economic base makes the Cook Islands vulnerable to external factors such as recessions in leading tourist markets, and natural disasters such as cyclones.  In 2013 there were 121,207 visitors to the Cook Islands, with New Zealanders making up the majority (79,125).

New Zealand Trade

NZ Exports to the Cook Islands (fob)

NZ$97 million (year to Nov 2013)

Main Exports

Food and beverages, fuel, machinery, transport and equipment

NZ Imports from the Cook Islands (cif)

NZ$1 million (year to Nov 2013)

Main Imports

Fish, pearls, fruit, maire






Air and Shipping Services

The Cook Islands has good air services.  Air New Zealand operates daily flights into and out of Rarotonga from New Zealand as well as weekly flights from Sydney and Los Angeles, subsidised by the Cook Islands Government.  Virgin Australia also operates a return service between Auckland and Rarotonga five days a week.   Two shipping lines provide services between Auckland and Rarotonga, with one also servicing the Northern Group of Islands on demand.


In accordance with its constitutional responsibilities, New Zealand will respond to requests from the Government of the Cook Islands for assistance with the defence of the Cook Islands.  A Mutual Assistance Programme (MAP) is administered by the New Zealand Defence Force in collaboration with New Zealand Police.  MAP assistance to the Cook Islands focuses on supporting Pacific Patrol Boat operations, small arms use and security, search and rescue, and the provision of a technical adviser to the Pacific Patrol Boat project.


The Cook Islands education system follows the Cook Islands curriculum and utilises the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NCEA) for assessment and qualifications at senior secondary level and beyond. Education is compulsory for all children between 5 and 16 years of age. The Government provides free secular education at early childhood (from the age of 3), primary and secondary school levels. The Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute provides tertiary training. The University of the South Pacific has an extension centre in Rarotonga providing vocational, foundation and degree courses.


Cook Islanders have New Zealand citizenship and as such have free access into New Zealand.

Visitors travelling to the Cook Islands on a New Zealand passport are granted an entry permit for a stay of 90 days on arrival.  An application for extension of stay beyond this period must be made through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.  Holders of entry permits, including expatriate New Zealanders, are not allowed to work unless a work permit has been granted.

Development Cooperation Programme

New Zealand contributed a total of $25 million of official development assistance in the Cook Islands during 2013/14.  New Zealand’s total aid to the Cook Islands in 2014/15 is anticipated to be $28 million, of which $7.5 million is for Pacific regional activities and partnerships which benefit the Cook Islands.  New Zealand manages Australia’s annual development assistance contribution of $2 million to the Cook Islands through a delegated cooperation arrangement.

New Zealand's development assistance to the Cook Islands is delivered in accordance with a Joint Commitment for Development signed with the Cook Islands Government. The Joint Commitment for Development focuses a harmonised New Zealand and Australia programme on sustainable economic development through support to the water, waste and sanitation, energy, tourism, education and health sectors. Programme activities are delivered in partnership with a range of Cook Islands Government partners and coordinated by the Cook Islands Ministry of Finance and Economic Management’s Development Coordination Division.

Multilateral Linkages

The Cook Islands has entered into a wide range of bilateral and multilateral treaties in its own name and is a member of a number of regional and international organisations.  The Cook Islands is a member in its own right of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and International Maritime Organisation (IMO).  It is also a member of regional organisations such as the Pacific Islands Forum and its agencies, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.  In August 2012, the Cook Islands hosted the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum, and assumed the Chair for the year 2012-13 (from New Zealand).  In 2014 the Cook Islands had established diplomatic relations with the EU and 40 states. 

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Recent Visits to Cook Islands

Recent Visits from Cook Islands


Travel advice

The Safetravel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Cook Islands [external link].

Enquiries may be directed to Consular Division at the following numbers:  Phone:  +64 4 439 8000; Fax: +64 4 439 8515.

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 15 October 2014 11:34 NZDT