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The Cook Islands (Cook Islands Māori: Kūki 'Āirani) are a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealandmarker. The fifteen small islands in this South Pacific Oceanmarker country have a total land area of 240 square kilometres (92.7 sq mi), but the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers 1.8 million square kilometres (0.7 million sq mi) of ocean.

The main population centres are on the island of Rarotongamarker (14,153 as of 2006), where there is an international airport. There is also a much larger population of Cook Islanders in New Zealand, particularly the North Islandmarker. In the 2006 census, 58,008 self-identified as being of ethnic Cook Island Māori descent.

With over 90,000 visitors travelling to the islands in 2006, tourism is the country's number one industry, and the leading element of the economy, far ahead of offshore banking, pearls, marine and fruit exports.

Defence is the responsibility of New Zealandmarker, in consultation with the Cook Islands and at its request. In recent times, the Cook Islands have adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy.

Politics

The parliament building of the Cook Islands, formerly a hotel.
The politics of the Cook Islands takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic associated state, whereby the Queen of New Zealand, represented in the Cook Islands by the Queen's Representative, is Head of State and the Chief Minister is the head of government. There is a pluriform multi-party system and the islands are self-governing in free association with New Zealandmarker and fully responsible for both internal and external affairs. New Zealand retains some responsibility for external affairs, in consultation with the Cook Islands. As of 2005, it has diplomatic relations in its own name with eighteen other countries. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of the Cook Islands.

The Cook Islands are not United Nations full members but participate in WHO and UNESCOmarker, and are an associate member of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Geography

The Cook Islands are in the South Pacific Ocean, north-east of New Zealand, between French Polynesiamarker and Fijimarker. There are fifteen major islands, spread over 2.2 million square kilometres of ocean, divided into two distinct groups: the Southern Cook Islands, and the Northern Cook Islands of coral atolls. The islands were formed by volcanic activity; the northern group is older and consists of six atolls (sunken volcanoes topped by coral growth). The climate is moderate to tropical.

The 15 islands and two reefs are grouped as follows:

Administrative subdivisions

There are island councils on all of the inhabited outer islands (Outer Islands Local Government Act 1987, with amendments up to 2004 and Palmerston Island Local Government Act 1993) except Nassaumarker, which is governed by Pukapukamarker (Suwarrowmarker, with only one caretaker living on the island, also governed by Pukapuka, is not counted with the inhabited islands in this context). Each council is headed by a mayor.

The ten Outer Islands councils are:
Aitutakimarker (including uninhabited Manuaemarker)
Mangaiamarker
Atiumarker (including uninhabited Takuteamarker)
Ma'ukemarker
Mitiaromarker
Manihikimarker
Penrhynmarker
Rakahangamarker
Pukapukamarker (including Nassaumarker and Suwarrowmarker)
Palmerstonmarker


Districts of Rarotonga.
The three vaka councils of main island Rarotongamarker established in 1997 (Rarotonga Local Government Act 1997), that were also headed by mayors, were abolished in February 2008, despite much controversy

The three Vaka councils on the main island Rarotongamarker were:
Te au o tonga (equivalent to Avarua, the national capital of the Cook Islands)
Puaikura
Takitumu


On the lowest level, there are village committees. Nassaumarker, which is governed by Pukapukamarker, has an island committee (Nassau Island Committee), which advises the Pukapuka Island Council on matters concerning its own island.

History



The Cook Islands were first settled in the 6th century A.D. by Polynesian people who migrated from nearby Tahitimarker, to the southeast.

Spanishmarker ships visited the islands in the sixteenth century; the first written record of contact with the Islands came with the sighting of Pukapukamarker by Spanish sailor Álvaro de Mendaña in 1595 who called it San Bernardo (Saint Bernard). Portuguese-Spaniard Pedro Fernández de Quirós, made the first recorded European landing in the islands when he set foot on Rakahangamarker in 1606, calling it Gente Hermosa (Beautiful People).

British navigator Captain James Cook arrived in 1773 and 1777 and named the islands the Hervey Islands; the name "Cook Islands", in honour of Cook, appeared on a Russian naval chart published in the 1820s.

In 1813, John Williams, a missionary on the Endeavour (not the same ship as that of Cook), made the first official sighting of the island of Rarotongamarker.

The first recorded landing on Rarotonga by Europeans was in 1814 by the Cumberland; trouble broke out between the sailors and the Islanders and many were killed on both sides.

The islands saw no more Europeans until missionaries arrived from England in 1821. Christianity quickly took hold in the culture and many islanders continue to be Christian believers today.

The Cook Islands became a Britishmarker protectorate at their own request in 1888, mainly to thwart French expansionism. They were transferred to New Zealandmarker in 1901. They remained a New Zealand protectorate until 1965, at which point they became a self-governing territory in free association with New Zealand. In that year, Albert Henry of the Cook Islands Party was elected as the first Prime Minister. Sir Albert Henry led the country until he was accused of vote-rigging. He was succeeded in 1978 by Tom Davis of the Democratic Party.

Today, the Cook Islands are essentially independent ("self-governing in free association with New Zealand") but New Zealand is tasked with overseeing the country's defence.

On June 11, 1980, the United Statesmarker signed a treaty with the Cook Islands specifying the maritime border between the Cook Islands and American Samoamarker and also relinquishing its claim to the islands of Penrhynmarker, Pukapukamarker, Manihikimarker, and Rakahangamarker.

Culture

Float parade during the annual Maeva Nui celebrations.


Language

The languages of the Cook Islands include English, Cook Islands Maori, or "Rarotongan," and Pukapukan. Dialects of Cook Islands Maori include Penrhyn; Rakahanga-Manihiki; the Ngaputoru dialect of Atiumarker, Mitiaromarker, and Maukemarker; the Aitutakimarker dialect; and the Mangaianmarker dialect. Cook Islands Maori and its dialectic variants are closely related to both Tahitian and to New Zealandmarker Māori. Pukapukan, by contrast, is considered closely related to the Samoan language. Both English and Cook Islands Maori are considered official languages of the Cook Islands.

Holidays
Date Name
1 January New Year's Day 2 January Day after New Year's Day The Friday before Easter Sunday Good Friday The day after Easter Sunday Easter Monday 25 April ANZAC Day The first Monday in June Queen's Birthday during July Rarotonga Gospel Day 4 August Constitution Day (Te Maevea Nui Celebrations) 26 October Gospel Day 25 December Christmas 26 December Boxing Day


Art

Carving -Woodcarving is a common art form in the Cook Islands. Sculpture in stone is much rarer although there are some excellent carvings in basalt by Mike Tavioni. The proximity of islands in the southern group helped produce a homogeneous style of carving but which had special developments in each island. Rarotonga is known for its fisherman's gods and staff-gods, Atiumarker for its wooden seats, Mitiaromarker, Ma'ukemarker and Atiumarker for mace and slab gods and Mangaiamarker for its ceremonial adzes. Most of the original wood carvings were either spirited away by early European collectors or were burned in large numbers by missionary zealots. Today, carving is no longer the major art form with the same spiritual and cultural emphasis given to it by the Maori in New Zealand. However, there are continual efforts to interest young people in their heritage and some good work is being turned out under the guidance of older carvers. Atiu, in particular, has a strong tradition of crafts both in carving and local fibre arts such as tapa. Mangaia is the source of many fine adzes carved in a distinctive, idiosyncratic style with the so-called double-k design. Mangaia also produces food pounders carved from the heavy calcite found in its extensive limestone caves.

Weaving -The outer islands produce traditional weaving of mats, basketware and hats. Particularly fine examples of rito hats are worn by women to church on Sundays. They are made from the uncurled immature fibre of the coconut palm and are of very high quality. The Polynesian equivalent of Panama hats, they are highly valued and are keenly sought by Polynesian visitors from Tahiti. Often, they are decorated with hatbands made of minuscule pupu shells which are painted and stitched on by hand. Although pupu are found on other islands the collection and use of them in decorative work has become a speciality of Mangaia. The weaving of rito is a speciality of the northern island of Penrhyn.

Tivaevae -A major art form in the Cook Islands is tivaevae. This is, in essence, the art of making of tropical Island scenery handmade patchwork quilts. Introduced by the wives of missionaries in the 19th century, the craft grew into a communal activity and is probably one of the main reasons for its popularity. The Cook Islands make some of the most beautiful displays of tivaevae the eye can see.

Contemporary Art - The Cook Islands has produced notable and internationally recognised contemporary artists and the main island of Rarotonga has an exceptionally vibrant contemporary arts scene. Those born of Cook Islander heritage include painter (and photographer) Mahiriki Tangaroa, sculptors Eruera (Ted) Nia (originally a film maker) and master carver Mike Tavioni, painter (and Polynesian tattoo enthusiast) Upoko’ina Ian George, Aitutakian-born painter Tim Manavaroa Buchanan, Loretta Reynolds, and multi-media, installation and community-project artist Ani O'Neil, all of whom currently live on the main island of Rarotonga. New Zealand-based Cook Islander artists include Michel Tuffrey, print-maker David Teata, Richard Shortland Cooper, and Jim Vivieaere, who has mentored many of his compatriots and is a well-known curator and installation artist. Most of these artists have studied at university art schools in New Zealand and continue to enjoy close links with the New Zealand art scene. However, Apii Rongo, a comparably younger painter, is developing his career entirely on Rarotonga.

Artists of non-Cook Islander heritage currently working in Rarotonga include Judith Kunzel, Joan Rolls Gragg and Kay George, who is also known for her exquisite fabric designs.

On Rarotonga, the main commercial galleries are Beachcomber Contemporary Art (Taputapuatea, Avarua) run by Ben Bergman, and The Art Gallery ('Arorangi), run by Kay and Ian George. The Cook Islands National Museum also exhibits art.

Biology

The National Flower of the Cook Islands is the Tiare māori or Tiale māoli (Penrhyn, Nassau, Pukapuka). The Cook Islands are infested with Polynesian rats. The infestation has devastated the bird population on the islands.

Sport

Rugby union is the most popular sport in the Cook Islands with association football (soccer) and rugby league also popular.

See also



References

  1. A View from the Cook Islands SOPAC
  2. "Cook Islands Travel Guide" (with description), World Travel Guide, Nexus Media Communications, 2006. Webpage: WTGuide-Cook-Islands.
  3. http://www.transparency.org.au/documents/cookislands.pdf
  4. RAROTONGA LOCAL GOVERNMENT (REPEAL) BILL TO BE TABLED, Cook Islands Government and HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 393 :09 February 2008
  5. Cook Islands Samoa2007.com
  6. European discovery of the Cook Islands by Brian Hooker
  7. Cook : the extraordinary voyages of Captain James Cook, 2003, by Nicholas Thomas, page 310-311.
  8. Cook Islands Government website
  9. TEN DECADES: The Australasian Centenary History of the London Missionary Society, Rev. Joseph King (Word document)
  10. History of the Cook Islands
  11. www.govisitcookislands.com "Cook Islands Wildlife"
  12. cookislands.bishopmuseum.org "Rattus exulans Kiore Toka Pacific Rat"
  13. cookislands.bishopmuseum.org "The Status of Cook Islands Birds - 1996"


External links




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