The Cook Islands make up an archipelago located in the South Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and New Zealand. They have a democratic-parliamentary system of government in free association with New Zealand. The fifteen small islands have a combined area of 236 km², but the Exclusive Economic Zone occupies more than 1,800,000 square kilometers of ocean. The population is concentrated on the island of Rarotonga, where the international airport is located. There are also many citizens of the Cook Islands who live in New Zealand, particularly on the North Island. In the 2006 census there were 58 008 people identified as descendants of Maori from the Cook Islands.
With more than 90,000 visitors per year in 2006, tourism is the main source of income for the islands, above the business of banks, pearls and exports of seafood and exotic fruits. The defense and external representation are the responsibility of New Zealand, which must also consult the Cook Islands. Even so, in recent years the Cook Islands have been adopting increasing independence in terms of the management of Foreign Affairs. The citizens of the Cook Islands have New Zealand citizenship and also the nationality of the Cook Islands. The capital is Avarua. A popular form of art on the islands is the tivaevae, a form of quilting.