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When the Cook Islands was actually settled is unknown but achaeological digs put Rarotonga at 1500 years ago and Pukapuka at 2400 years ago.  Cook Islanders are believed to have come from a place called Avaiki. To find out more about the history of the Cook Islands contact:   

The Cook Islands lies nestled between the islands of Tahiti (1 hour flight) and Fiji (3 hour flight).  The easiest way to locate it on a map is to find Hawaii, and do a mirror reflection of Hawaii over the equator. 

There are 15 islands in the Cook Islands, divided up into two groups: the Northern and Southern Groups. 

Southern Group: Popn (1996 census)
Rarotonga (capital) 11,225
Mangaia 1,108
Mauke 652
Mitiaro 319
Atiu 956
Takutea 0
Manuae 0
Aitutaki 2,389
Northern Group:  
Suwarrow 4
Palmerston 49
Nassau 99
Pukapuka 779
Manihiki 668
Rakahanga 249
Penrhyn 606

Source: Annual Bulletin June 1999, Statistics Office, Rarotonga.

In its entirety, the Cook Islands has more ocean (2.2 million sq. km) than land (240 sq. km) space.   

The majority of the population is ethnic Maori, followed by European.

Rarotonga, the main island is the hub of the Cook Islands and also its biggest island. Rarotonga is a volcanic island (although the volcano’s are long extinct). This means its interior is mountainous and laden with lush tropical rain forests. The island is encircled by a reef providing some idyllic swimming spots. Rarotongan’s live on the coast.

Apart from Rarotonga and Aitutaki, the other islands are less frequently visited. A visit to islands such as Mauke, Mitiaro, Mangaia, Atiu in the Southern Group would be like taking a step back in time. The people are incredibly friendly and go out their way to please you and ensure that you never want to leave. There are regular flights to these islands.  There are also weekly flights to the Northern Group islands of Penrhyn and Manihiki.  Cook Islands black pearls are cultured in these islands.  The other Northern Group islands of Rakahanga, Pukapuka, Nassau and Suwarrow are only accessible by cargo ship, approx. once a month.

The Cook Islands economy has suffered drastically in the last five years, many of its major industries have had a negative trend.  Tourism, offshore banking, marine resources and agriculture are the largest industries.

1994 was the last time the Cook Islands had 60,000 visitors, now it only gets about 55,000 visitors a year mainly from New Zealand and Australia.  There are many reasons for this: poor or lack of marketing, lack of resources and funds injected into the tourist industry, more expensive than the likes of Fiji (although, it is cheaper than Hawaii and Tahiti).   But considering natural resources, environment protection and water availability, the Cook Islands can only host 100,000 visitors per annum, anymore would be detrimental to the environment. 

The El Nino and La Nina has had devastating effects on Agriculture exports.  The other problem is the lack of markets.  The Cook Islands exports a number of produces, mainly papaya/pawpaw to New Zealand; taro to Cook Islanders in New Zealand and Australia; nono (morinda citrifolia) to Tahiti and maire to Hawaii. 

Fishery exports has been non-existent over the past two years but this has changed.   

 In 1998, the Cook Islands made about $3M in declared black pearl sales.  This figure is still extremely low when compared to black pearl sales in Tahiti.  But there have been setbacks, especially with cyclone Martin affecting the island of Manihiki in November 1997.  Penrhyn island is starting to generate sales, but won't be a significant competitor to Manihiki for a few years yet.   

The newest developments in the offshore banking industry has been in asset protection.

Here are some basic statistics.

Visitor Numbers (2000) 72,994
New Zealand 22,019
Australia 12,128
USA 6,734
Canada 5,992
Europe 23,683
Asia 654
French Polynesia 756

Source: Migration Bulletin Feb. 2001, Statistics Office, Rarotonga.

Year Imports (million) Exports (million)
1976 $2.2 $13.3
1987 $11.9 $54.8
1996 $4.6 $62.9
1998 $6.0 $70.7

Currency: New Zealand Dollars
Source: Annual Bulletin June 1999, Statistics Office, Rarotonga.

Exports (1998) ('000)
Fruits/Vegetables $415
Fish $214
Pearls $5,033
Pearl Shells $2
Clothing $166
Maire $42

Currency: New Zealand Dollars
Source: Annual Bulletin June 1999, Statistics Office, Rarotonga.

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