The Cook Islands consist of 15 islands scattered over some 2 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean. They lie in the centre of the Polynesian Triangle, flanked to the west by the Kingdom of Tonga and the Samoa´s and to the east by Tahiti and the islands of French Polynesia. The capital island of Rarotonga, lies directly south of Hawaii and is the same distance south of the equator as Hawaii is north. The Cook Islands is just to the east of the International Date Line and is ten hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.
The islands are first thought to have become inhabited sometime between 500 and 800 AD, by people from islands in what is now known as French Polynesia. They came in great double-hulled canoes, navigating by using familiar stars, wave movements and temperature differences. These colonizers were believed to have been the last wave of the Polynesian Migration from Asia that began in 1500BC.
On October 26, 1888, Captain Edmund Bourke of the British Admiralty hoisted the British Flag on Rarotonga and other islands of the Southern Group and declared the islands to be part of the British Dominions. Subsequently an Imperial Order in Council in the New Zealand Parliament on May 13, 1901, permitted the annexation of the Cook Islands to New Zealand and came into effect on June 11, 1901, following a discussion with the Paramount Chiefs MAKEA and NGAMARU ARIKI as well as others. On August 4, 1965, after adoption of a Report by the Cook Islands Legislative Assembly, the Administrator of the Government of New Zealand at the time signed the Proclamation to declare the Cook Islands a Self Governing State.
The Cook Islands enjoys a stable government under a Westminster Parliamentary system, with elections every 5 years. (See “Legislative & Political System”)