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Our relationship with the Cook Islands

New Zealand and the Cook Islands share a close and unique relationship. The Cook Islands became a New Zealand colony in 1901 but after a push for self-determination in the 1960s it became self-governing in ‘free association’ with New Zealand in 1965. This means it administers its own affairs but that Cook Islanders are New Zealand citizens who are free to live and work here. More than 60,000 Cook Island Māori live in New Zealand.

The Cook Islands has its own education system, yet secondary students sit New Zealand qualifications. We also share the same currency – the New Zealand dollar. If requested by Cook Islands, New Zealand has responsibility to assist with for Cook Islands' defence and foreign affairs.

Joint Centenary Declaration

In 2001 our two countries signed an agreement reaffirming our relationship – the Joint Centenary Declaration of the Principles of the Relationship between New Zealand and the Cook Islands. Under the declaration our two governments hold ministerial-level meetings to reinforce our constitutional relationship and discuss matters of mutual interest such as economic development and foreign affairs. The third Joint Ministerial Forum was held in February 2014 in Aitutaki.

Read the full text of the Joint Centenary Declaration [PDF, 218 KB].

Geography

‘Big ocean, small islands’ describes the widely dispersed 15 islands with a total land area of 240 square kilometres and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of almost two million square kilometres. Roughly 70% of the approximately 15,000 population live on the island of Rarotonga.

Trade

2015 statistics

Total trade in goods 

$ 98.43 million

 

Exports to Cook Islands

$ 98.17 million 

Top exports: fuel, food, machinery, transport and equipment

Imports from Cook Islands

$ 0.26 million

Top imports: pearls, fruit and vegetables, machinery, iron and steel
Tourism is the Cook Islands' biggest export earner.
Tourism is the Cook Islands' biggest export earner.

The bulk of goods traded between our two countries is exports from New Zealand to the Cook Islands.

Tourism is the Cook Islands' biggest export earner, making up about 60% of its GDP. More than 122,000 people visit the Cook Islands every year, with Kiwis making up more than half of these visitor numbers.

The Cook Islands' fisheries sector is a significant earner, although yet to perform to its potential or to expectations. 

Aid

The New Zealand Aid Programme works with  the Cook Islands to upgrade its infrastructure, grow sustainable tourism, and support initiatives that strengthen the public sector and improve education, health and social services.

Find out more about our aid programme in the Cook Islands

Embassies

Recent official visits

New Zealand to Cook Islands
  • March 2018: Senior Officials visited Cook Islands for the first Joint Ministerial Working Group
  • March 2018: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and a New Zealand delegation visited Cook Islands during the Pacific Mission
  • June 2017: Prime Minister John Key, Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee and a New Zealand delegation visited Cook Islands during the Pacific Mission
  • March 2017: Their Excellencies Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir David Gascoinge visited the Cook Islands
  • February 2017: Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully visited Cook Islands
  • March 2016: Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully visited the Cook Islands for the fourth Joint Ministerial Forum
  • August 2015: Prime Minister Key led a delegation of Ministers, MPs and New Zealand based Cook Islands community leaders to celebrate the Cook Islands' 50 year anniversary of self-governance
  • May 2015: Foreign Minister Murray McCully, Ambassador for Pacific Economic Development Shane Jones, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, and the Labour Party's Foreign Affairs Spokesperson David Shearer visited for bilateral discussions and to open solar-powered projects
  • May 2014: Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully attended the Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders' Meeting on the Pacific Plan on behalf of Prime Minister Key
  • April 2014: Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully visited the Cook Islands during the Pacific Energy Mission along with EU Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs
  • February 2014: Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully attended the third Joint Ministerial Forum in Aitutaki
  • August 2012: Prime Minister John Key, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and a New Zealand delegation attended the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum in Rarotonga
  • May 2011: Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully travelled to the Cook Islands for the first Joint Ministerial Forum
Cook Islands to New Zealand
  • April 2018: Prime Minister Henry Puna, Finance Minister Mark Brown, Health Minister Nandi Glassie, Internal Affairs Minister Albery Nicholas and a Cook Islands delegations visited for bilateral discussions and the fifth Joint Ministerial Forum in Waitangi
  • December 2017: Prime Minister Henry Puna and Finance Minister Mark Brown visited Wellington
  • November 2016: Albert Nicholas, Minister for Internal Affairs and Sport, represented the Cook Islands at the Pacific Parliamentary Forum
  • August 2015: Prime Minister Henry Puna attended celebrations marking 50 years of the special bilateral relationship
  • February 2013: Prime Minister Henry Puna, Finance Minister Mark Brown and Education and Fisheries Minister Teina Bishop attended the second Joint Ministerial Forum in Queenstown
  • June 2012: Prime Minister Henry Puna came to New Zealand to attend the EU-PIF Troika
  • March 2012: Finance Minister Mark Brown visited Wellington
  • September 2011: Prime Minister Henry Puna attended the Pacific Island Forum in Auckland and Rugby World Cup

News & Events

Māori Electoral Option 2018

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The Māori Electoral Option is an opportunity for anyone who is of New Zealand Māori descent and who is enrolled to vote to choose which electoral roll they want to be on – the General roll or the Māori roll.