Joint NZ-Cooks Declaration A Symbol Of Closeness
Joint NZ-Cooks Declaration A Symbol Of Enduring Close Relationship
Prime Minister Helen Clark and Cook Islands Prime Minister Terepai Maoate today signed the 'Joint Centenary Declaration of the Principles of the Relationship between New Zealand and the Cook Islands'.
Helen Clark is attending the Cook Islands' celebration of one hundred years association with New Zealand.
She said the declaration reaffirms the close relationship between the two countries.
The Cook Islands was administered as a dependent territory of New Zealand from 1901 until 1965, when the Cook Islands adopted a constitution which provided for full self-government in 'free association' with New Zealand.
Under the free association relationship, the Cook Islands government possesses full executive and legislative powers, but in recognition of its size and isolation, New Zealand retained responsibilities for Cook Islands' foreign affairs and defence. Cook Islanders also retain New Zealand citizenship, on the basis that there will continue to be a mutually acceptable standard of values in Cook Islands' laws and policies, founded on respect for human rights, the purpose and principles of the United Nations Charter, and for the rule of law.
Helen Clark said the joint declaration formally updates what has been taking place for some time as the Cook Islands has moved, with New Zealand's support, to develop its own international identity.
"Since the 1980s, the Cook Islands has been entering into international treaties in its own name, has become a member in its own right of a number of international organisations, and has established diplomatic relations with fourteen countries.
"While the Cook Islands wish to remain in free association with New Zealand, it is free to opt for full independence at any time. New Zealand welcomes the moves the Cook Islands is making to develop a distinctive voice representing the views and interests of its people.
"The declaration confirms that Cook Islanders retain New Zealand citizenship."
Helen Clark said the Cook Islands' centenary celebrations reinforce the close bond between New Zealand and the Cooks.
"The two countries share a long history and warm friendship. There are also close personal ties with an estimated 48,000 people of Cook Islands descent living in New Zealand. The centenary has been an opportunity for us to celebrate those ties," Helen Clark said.