If requested by Cook Islands, New Zealand has responsibility to assist with for Cook Islands' defence and foreign affairs. The Cook Islands are 15 islands in the heart of the South Pacific spread over an area the size of India with a population no bigger than a small New Zealand country town, 10,000 to 15,000 souls.
The Cook Islands comprise 15 small islands scattered over 1.8 million square kilometres of the South Pacific Ocean. The physical geography of the Cook Islands is one of stark contrast between the Northern Group of islands - Palmerston, Suwarrow, Nassau, Pukapuka, Rakahanga, Manihiki and Penrhyn - which are low lying atolls, and the Southern Group of islands - Aitutaki, Manuae, Takutea, Atiu, Mitiaro, Mauke, Mangaia and Rarotonga - which are primarily hilly volcanic islands (e.g. Rarotonga) or low volcanic but surrounded by a raised reef platform or makatea.
These unique and friendly Polynesians have their own language and government and enjoy a vigorous and diverse culture with significant differences between each island. Despite some 140,000 visitors a year to the capital island Rarotonga the Cooks are largely unspoiled by tourism. They offer a rare opportunity for people from the cities of the world to experience a different type of vacation. There are no high-rise hotels and very little hype. Ideal for travellers seeking more than the usual clichés associated with the South Seas, each island has its unique qualities and offers the visitor a special experience.
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 in New Zealand. More than 60,000 Cook Island Maori live in New Zealand.
In 2001 the two countries signed an agreement reaffirming their 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 the constitutional relationship and discuss matters of mutual interest such as economic development and foreign affairs.
A story on the Stuff website November 06, 2018 claiming the Cook Islands “is said to be” on the brink of signing a deal allowing China to build a deep water port on Penryhn, drew a formal complaint from the Office of the Prime Minister to Fairfax Media in New Zealand. The story, written by Matthew Rosenburg and Hamish Rutherford, claimed China was offering to construct the port in exchange for taking part in the country’s “Belt and Road” initiative, which aims to boost trade connections across Eurasia.
The Cook Islands said 09 November 2018 it would sign on to China's Belt and Road initiative in the next week. Cook Islands Finance Minister Mark Brown said his government is looking over the proposed agreement. He said it will sign in time for the APEC summit in Papua New Guinea next week, when Pacific Island leaders will meet with China's President Xi Jinping. "We have had discussions also with New Zealand about their signing up to the Belt and Road initiative and how the wording of the documentation is. So that's I guess something that's in progress in the lead up to the APEC meeting in the next week or so."
The Cook Islands police expected their new patrol boat to arrive in 2022. The boat, along with 13 others for countries across the Pacific, is funded by the Australian government. The current patrol boat, CIPPB Te Kukupa, had been in service since 1989. The police said it had an immeasurable impact on securing the country's marine resources. After 25 years in service, police patrol boat Te Kukupa was slated to be replaced thanks to the Australian government’s recently revamped $NZ2.15 billion Pacific Patrol Boat program.
The announcement was made in June 2014 through a joint press release issued by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister David Johnston. According to the Australian government, discussions will be held with partner nations on the individual allocation of patrol vessels in the coming months. This will include details on expected delivery times and what happens to Te Kukupa in the meantime.
The revamped program had the potential to significantly strengthen security and surveillance in the region, Minister Johnston said. “The Pacific Patrol Boat Programme is an important pillar of the Australian Government’s commitment to working with our regional partners to enable cohesive security cooperation on maritime surveillance, including in fisheries protection and transnational crime,” he said. Te Kukupa – the nation’s current and only patrol boat - was gifted under the same program by the Australian government in 1989.
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