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The Cook Islands is self-governing in free association with New Zealand. New Zealand is responsible for the Cook Islands' defence and foreign affairs, but they are exercised in consultation with the Cook Islands.   Although Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand they have the status of Cook Islands nationals, . Population is estimated at 17,400.

The Cook Islands' main population centres are on the island of Rarotonga (estimated population of 14,000) where there is an international airport. 

With about 150,000 visitors travelling to the islands in the 2016-17 financial year tourism 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.