Information for Non-Cook Islanders

Information for Non-Cook Islanders

I am happy to assist you, if you have a question, don’t hesitate to email me!
Here is some important information for Non-Cook islanders

See also and go to: FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

NON-COOK Islanders seeking permission to reside or do business in the Cook Islands have to take account of three statutes:

  • The Development Investment Act 1995-6.

  • The Leases Restrictions Act 1976.

  • The Entry Residence and Departure Act 1977.

The most important is the Development Investment Act which lays down that all foreign organisations or companies that want to set up an enterprise must first obtain approval and register their planned activities.

The Leases Restrictions Act does not allow freehold ownership of land. Any person/s may lease land for up to five years. Any longer period up to a maximum of 60 years has to be approved by a Committee established under the Act. The Committee’s principal function is to manage & regulate leaseholds to all including people other than Cook Islanders and permanent residents.
The Entry Residence and Departure Act demands that anyone other than Cook Islanders and permanent residents who wish to live and work in the islands must first obtain a work and residence permit.
Section 17 of the Development Investment Act states:

“No foreign enterprise shall carry on business in the Cook Islands in any activity unless that foreign enterprise is registered in respect of that activity pursuant to this Act”.

‘Foreign enterprise’ means a business with more than one-third foreign ownership. An application for Foreign Enterprise registration must be made to the Cook Islands Business Trade & Investment Board (BTIB).

The Board takes account of an Investment Code which spells out the Government’s general investment policy. The Code states:

“Business activities must contribute significantly to the economic development of the Cook Islands and result in a net economic benefit to the Cook Islands”

Provision should be made in the case of a new foreign investment for the acquisition of equity by or on behalf of Cook Islanders, or for joint ventures with enterprises owned or controlled by Cook Islanders”.

The term “Cook Islanders” includes Cook Island Maoris and Permanent Residents. If the enterprise wishes to lease land to carry on its business and if the land is central to the activity, for instance, hotel/motel accommodation, the Board may require the lease arrangement to provide for the lessors to be paid a share from the activity. This is a brief guide only and a solicitor should be consulted for advice.

Solicitors in the Cook Islands include:

  • Charles Little, PC
    eMail: charles (at)

  • Clarkes P.C, PO Box 123, Rarotonga.
    eMail: law (at)

Accountants in the Cook Islands include:

  • Bobs Accounting Services,
    eMail: mgoodwin (at)

  • Trends Limited
    Phone 682 20 537 Fax: 682 24 537

Banks in the Cook Islands include:

  • ANZ Banking Group Ltd, PO Box 907, Rarotonga.
    eMail: anzcooks (at)

  • Cook Islands Development Bank
    eMail: cidb @

  • Westpac Banking Corporation
    eMail: bank (at)

I have over 10 years of experience in selling, buying and trading houses, businesses, properties and realty in Rarotonga and the other islands of the Cook Islands.
Looking forward to hearing from you.

Meitaki maata e kia manuia
Brent Fisher, Cook Islands Realty Ltd

Please Note – Disclaimer
Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. All measurements and time periods are approximate. Please contact me first.

Frequently Asked Questions – Here are answers!

  • I want to buy a lease for a holiday home in the Cook Islands?
    It is possible for a non Cook Islander to lease a property
    but not for more than 5 years.
    Only Cook Islanders or business owners can
    lease property in the Cooks for over 5 years
    and special conditions apply such as LAC approval.

  • Is there any freehold land I can buy?
    There is no freehold land in the Cook Islands
    and a 60 year lease is the longest available
    and can not have the right to renew. When the
    lease time runs down it is possible to approach
    the land owner and top the lease back up to 60 years
    again but this is up to the landowners if they wish.

  • Can I on sell my lease?
    Yes you can and once a sale has been signed up
    the landowners then have the right to buy the property
    back at the agreed price and have 30 days to do so.
    The property must be advertised to let the
    landowners know it has a sale on it and they
    have the first right of refusal.

  • If I did sell my lease would it be worth less than what I paid for it?
    Land seems to hold its value here and we know of a
    lot of sales that although the time of lease was less than
    when purchased, the sale price was more than the
    original price paid. In saying this it is not encouraged
    to buy property to speculate on.

  • What rates and taxes apply to property leases?
    There are no water or rubbish rates or Government
    property rates. There is a yearly rental payable to
    the landowners depending on the type of lease.
    This is reviewable from five to ten years.
    On a domestic lease for quarter acre the rental is
    about $200-$300 on average. This rental can not
    be raised to a silly level and there is a body that
    you can complain to and have mediate for you if you
    aren’t happy with the increase at the review time.
    Its usually not more than 10% per five years.

  • What is the local schooling like?
    The schooling here is compatible with NZ and Aussie.
    We have state run and private schools. With a very low
    crime rate and heaps of fun things for the kids to do it
    makes for a healthy environment for schooling.
    Children are taught to respect their parents, teachers
    and elders as family is a very important part of life
    in the Cook Islands. Check out –

  • What is VAT Tax? (Value added Tax)
    VAT is the similar to GST tax.
    In the Cook Islands it is 12.5%
    which is included in any advertised pricing.
    Any VAT registered company adds it to its prices and that
    company claims it back when they purchase goods.

  • What currency do we use in the Cook Islands?
    New Zealand currency is used as well as a few local
    coins such as the $5 and the triangle $2.
    We also have two types of $3 bill.

  • Communications, Internet?
    Telecom Cook Islands offers International Direct Dialling services as well as internet, email, fax, telex and telegram facilities. Some of these services are also offered on the outer islands, which also have local television broadcast facilities based around a satellite package marketed by TCI. There are six radio stations – Radio Cook Islands, 93FM (an extension of Radio Cook Islands), Radio Ikurangi,Adventist Radio TKANA 3 (Seventh Day Adventist), 88FM (Tumutevarovaro Digital Factory Ltd) Matariki FM. Radio Cook Islands operates 18 hours on Fridays and Saturdays and 17 hours the rest of the week and its AM signals reach all islands in the country. Radio Ikurangi broadcasts an FM signal with limited reach. Privately owned Cook Islands Television broadcasts on Rarotonga on a 24 hour basis, presenting a mix of local news, the New Zealand Television One news service, ABC Asia-Pacific and overseas-sourced programmes. There is now a new free to air, privately owned TV station called “Vaka TV” which transmits 24/7. The former Government-owned newspaper, The Cook Islands News, was privatised in 1989 and publishes six days a week. The month of August saw the first full colour edition of the paper which is produced locally. Rarotonga’s two weekly newspapers, the Herald and the Independent are owned by Elijah Communications, which also operates Cook Islands Television and Radio Cook Islands. Bring your cell phone with you as you can roam or buy a sim card for $25 and operate on the local network on a pre paid deal. There are plenty of internet cafes to access the net for emailing etc.

Facts about our Islands
The Southern Group, comprising Rarotonga (the main island), Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Manuae, Mauke, Mitiaro, Palmerston and Takutea, are mostly of high volcanic formation (up to 652 metres on Rarotonga) with fertile soils and lush tropical vegetation. The exceptions are the small atolls of Manuae and Palmerston are small atolls, while Takutea, is a sandy key. The Southern Group possesses about 90 percent of the total land area of the Cook Islands. Rarotonga is the largest island (6,719 hectares) and Takutea, the smallest (122 hectares).
The Northern Group comprises Manihiki, Nassau, Penrhyn, Pukapuka, Rakahanga and Suwarrow. All except Nassau which is a sandy key, are low-lying coral atolls with sparse vegetation (coconut and pandanus trees etc) and large lagoons. Penrhyn is the largest island (984 hectares) and Suwarrow, the smallest (40 hectares).
The closest outer island to Rarotonga is Mangaia (204kms distant) while the farthest is Penrhyn (1,365kms away). The two most widely-separated islands of the country are Pukapuka, in the Northern Group, and Mangaia in the Southern Group (1,470kms apart).
Rarotonga is about 3,010 kms northeast of Auckland, 1,140 kms southwest of Tahiti, 2,300kms east of Fiji and 4,730 kms south of Hawaii.

The Cook Islands is situated between 9 degrees and 22 degrees south latitude and has a tropical oceanic climate with two seasons. The drier months, from April to November, have an average maximum temperature of about 26 degrees centigrade and an average minimum temperature of about 20 degrees centigrade. The wetter, more humid months, from December to March, have an average maximum temperature of 28 degrees centigrade and an average minimum of 22 degrees centigrade. During the latter season, the Cook Islands can experience occasionally severe tropical storms and even hurricanes. As you can see the temperature is pretty constant but the humidity changes varies considerably.

All information above is given in good faith and is my understanding at this time. Please check if you are unsure of any details within the text and advise us if you find more detailed or correct information.