The Cook Islands' defence and foreign affairs are the responsibility of New Zealand, but they are exercised in consultation with the Cook Islands. In recent times, the Cook Islands have adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy. Although Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand, they have the status of Cook Islands nationals, which is not given to other New Zealand citizens.
The Cook Islands' main population centres are on the island of Rarotonga (10,572 in 2011), where there is an international airport. There is a larger population of Cook Islanders in New Zealand, particularly the North Island. In the 2006 census, 58,008 self-identified as being of ethnic Cook Islands Māori descent.