Cook Islands News has received a number of recent reports of families leaving the Cook Islands permanently, with many seeking higher salaries abroad.
The depopulation issue in the Cook Islands is significant, with the Cook Islands’ population steadily declining over the past 40 years.
Population estimates for June last year were 12,900 with 4,000 people in the Pa Enua and about 9,000 on Rarotonga.
Principal Immigration Officer Kairangi Samuela says they are able to conduct movement checks of people over a period of time from arrivals and departures captured on the border management system as well as data captured by the statistics office from arrival cards.
“First we will do a movement check of those local families from the arrival database (that is if they have been travelling) to determine whether they are resident or not based on their home address.”
If their home address is in the Cook Islands, they are residents, she says.
“If they have just left we will not know whether they are away on holiday or have left permanently as we only get the passport information.
“We can determine that they have left permanently if they do not return for a period of time (say one year), it’s a matter of continuous checking on those families.”
Samuela says any data that can inform Government policy should be captured.
“…We are able to provide information on how may Cook Islanders residents have left permanently from analysing information over a period of time, so it is not that this information is not captured at all, it is the manner by which it is captured and the means of analysis that has changed.”
Before departure cards were dropped the statistics division was capturing this information directly from the cards. They would then provide the information to the planning division when requested, Samuela says.
“Why people leave and the duration of their departure does not have a direct effect on the delivery of our services, but we do recognise that this has implications at the broader government level so we are able to provide the raw data to other Government agencies to use for their planning purposes.”
Asked whether she could provide statistics on the number of families who had left the Cook Islands in the past year, she said the information could take some time to obtain.
“In addition, we will not be able to determine whether they have left permanently or their reasons for departure – just that they have not returned since departing a year ago.
“So they may have left for health reasons, study, permanently, or to look after young children.”