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Cook Islands


heading foldHow we are helping

2013/14 Estimated Outcome

$4.4 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate

$4.0 million


Australia provides aid to the Cook Islands through a delegated arrangement with New Zealand. Cook Islands’ development is challenged by its narrow economic base, limited natural resources, fragile environment, shortage of skilled labour and relatively remote location. The economy, underpinned by tourism and marine resources, remains vulnerable to natural disasters, as demonstrated by Cyclone Pat which caused significant damage to key infrastructure in 2010 and a severe drought in 2011.

Building new sanitation facilities in Muri, Cook Islands
Building new sanitation facilities in Muri, Cook Islands (credit: DFAT).

Australia will support the joint development assistance programme with New Zealand as this continues to be one of the most effective and efficient ways to deliver aid to a small Pacific island state. We will support priority areas under the New Zealand–Cook Islands Joint Commitment for Development, focusing on:

  1. improving economic infrastructure and water management by upgrading residential and commercial septic systems to protect water quality in the lagoon, important to the tourism industry
  2. investments to improve the quality of education, literacy, and numeracy, to develop an educated workforce ready to contribute to—and benefit from—economic growth
  3. building resilience through disaster management and preparedness, including reconstruction of public infrastructure and the development of a disaster management programme for government and local communities.

Australia is also funding two new initiatives to help the Cook Islands Government to reduce violence against women and promote women’s economic empowerment and disability-inclusive development.

A water monitoring activity taking place at Muri lagoon, Cook Islands
A water monitoring activity taking place at Muri lagoon, Cook Islands (credit: Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) Unit, Government of the Cook Islands).

Archived details of expenditure for this program for 2013–14 can be found here.

Archived details of expenditure for DFAT’s aid program, following the Government’s announcement on 18 January 2014 to revise the aid budget, can be found here.


Results to 30 June 2013

  • Over two hundred residential on-site sewage treatment systems installed.
  • Rainwater harvesting systems installed in households in the northern islands, providing over 1 million litres of drinking water storage to families vulnerable to variable rainfall.
  • Audit of commercial sanitation systems in the pilot area and installation of three new commercial systems.
  • Support to the Cook Islands Government to draft a national sanitation policy, and strengthening and enforcement of improved sanitation procedures and practices.
  • Implementation of a communications and public education program for improved sanitation.

Commitments 2013–14

  • Continue to support improvements in public health by increasing access to safe water and sanitation.
  • Continue to improve the quality of lagoon water by developing a water catchment scheme, including through upgrades to residential septic systems and legislative and regulatory policy development and enforcement.
  • Progress with upgrading residential on-site installations on Rarotonga (800 properties) and Aitutaki (150 properties).


Results to 30 June 2013

  • Achievements in tertiary and vocational education include planning for employment-based trades training (secondary and tertiary students) and registration of the hospitality program to offer City & Guild training in-country.
  • Training for principals, professional development for teachers, staff performance reviews and reviews of 22 schools.
  • Completion of an electronic student information system.
  • Schools received computers and technical support to implement online learning.

Commitments 2013–14

  • Continued support for training on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • Continued support to the expansion of online education to improve access to quality education for children on outer islands.

Economic development

Results to 30 June 2013

  • Improved water quality in Muri lagoon, Rarotonga – a major tourist destination crucial to the Cook Islands economy – through upgrading of commercial and residential sewage treatment systems.

Commitments 2013–14

  • Continued support to upgrade residential and commercial sanitation systems in Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
  • Support to the Cook Islands Government to implement the National Policy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Implementation Plan 2011-16 by providing assistance to non-government and civil society organisations working to improve women’s access to economic opportunities.


Results to 30 June 2013

  • The Cyclone Recovery and Reconstruction Programme completed reconstruction of Mauke and Mitiaro harbours at a cost of NZ$5.3 million, and both were officially opened mid 2013. The upgraded harbours will boost economic activity by enabling the fast, safe and efficient loading and offloading of inter-island shipping cargo and launching of fishing boats.
  • In response to Tropical Cyclone Pat in 2010, Australian assistance contributed to the reconstruction of 160 damaged homes, the restoration of two schools and provision of essential school equipment including furniture, computers and curriculum resources.

Commitments 2013–14

  • A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by Emergency Management Cook Islands and the Cook Islands Red Cross, setting out how they will collaborate to reduce disaster risk and respond to disasters.

Research overview

Research funded by Australian Aid's Cook Islands country program targets the country's specific development challenges. Research is also carried out on a regional level. Some of the highlights are listed below.

Moving beyond SPARTECA: Opportunities and challenges for the Cook Islands (2010)

This report looks at regional trade and integration in the Pacific, looking beyond the South Pacific Area Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA).

The Cook Islands, as a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, is advancing toward more cohesive regional economic relations in areas including trade, security, politics and social development.

However, the limited human resources in some government departments have contributed to delays for some projects, including regional initiatives that have a direct bearing on the overall regional integration of the Cook Islands.

The report was commissioned by the Government of Cook Islands and carried out by the Pacific Institute of Public Policy, with funding from Australian Aid.

Read the full report[external link, PDF 1.57mb]


heading foldWhy we give aid


Similar to other Pacific island countries, the Cook Islands has limited natural resources and a shortage of skilled labour. Its small size, isolation and lack of natural resources mean that opportunities for employment and economic growth are limited. The Cook Islands is also particularly vulnerable to natural disasters such as cyclones. The outer islands are affected by limited access to basic services such as health, education, transport and potable water.

Find out more about why we give aid to the Cook Islands


heading foldHow we give aid

Australia's development assistance to the Cook Islands is delivered by New Zealand through a delegated cooperation arrangement agreed between the Governments of the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Australia. The program targets improvements in water and sanitation, education and disaster risk reduction.

Find out more about how we give aid to the Cook Islands


heading foldProgress Against MDGs

  • Eradicate extreme hunger & poverty
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability

Last reviewed: 28 October, 2014