Many Cook Islanders will tell you how there are more Cook Islanders living in New Zealand and Australia than in the Cook Islands. The population of the Cook Islands is less than 15,000 but there are over 50,000 Cook Islanders living in New Zealand, and over 30,000 in Australia. Those remaining have often spent time in Auckland, Melbourne or Sydney before returning home.
Named after Captain Cook, who sighted them in 1770, the islands became a British protectorate in 1888. By 1900, administrative control was transferred to New Zealand; in 1965 residents chose self-government in free association with New Zealand. In effect, New Zealand handles defense, foreign affairs including passports, and currency; otherwise the islands are self-governing. This includes immigration, which is strictly controlled -- even for New Zealanders.