The Cook Islands (Cook Islands Māori: Kūki 'Āirani) is a self-governing island country in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand. It comprises 15 islands whose total land area is 92.7 square miles (240.9 km2). The Cook Islands' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), however, covers 690,000 square miles (1,787,090 km2) of ocean. The Cook Islands has a total population of 28,002 people.
The Cook Islands' defense and foreign affairs are the responsibility of New Zealand, but they are exercised in consultation with the Cook Islands. In recent times, the Cook Islands have adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy. Although Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand, they have the status of Cook Islands nationals, which is not given to other New Zealand citizens.
The Cook Islands' main population centers are on the island of Rarotonga (19,770 in 2011), where there is an international airport. There is a larger population of Cook Islanders in New Zealand, particularly the North Island. In the 2006 census, 108,475 self-identified as being of ethnic Cook Islands Māori descent.
With about 100,000 visitors travelling to the islands in the 2010–11 financial year, tourism is the country's main industry, and the leading element of the economy, ahead of offshore banking, pearls, and marine and fruit exports.