However, the precise figures are still unknown, thanks to a delay in producing the final 2016 census results, now being finalised by Statistics New Zealand.
Government statistician and chief electoral officer Taggy Tangimetua says the results should be ready by late March.
“We have had a temporary setback with our scanning software and so we thought it best to transport the results to New Zealand.”
Tangimetua says that the final results have been checked against the preliminary results and only small changes are expected. “It looks like there are only minor changes and those are between the different island populations.”
The census, held every five years, measures population size, composition, distribution, economic activity, health and counts residents and non-resident tourists, who are residing in the Cook Islands on census night which was December 1, 2016.
According to the preliminary results which have been disputed by some, 17,459 people were residing in the Cook Islands on that day. Of those 15,562 were permanent residents and 1,897 were visitors. From those numbers 13,044 were on Rarotonga at the time, and in the southern group 1,928 were on Aitutaki, 499 on Mangaia, 437 on Atiu, 297 on Mauke and 155 are on Mitiaro.
In the northern group Palmerston had a population of 58, Pukapuka 444, Nassau 78, Manahiki 213, Rakahunga 80 and Penrhyn 226.
These numbers broke down to 75 per cent of the total population residing in Rarotonga, while 19 per cent were in the southern group and 6 per cent in the north.
Preliminary results also revealed a slight increase in the female population in the Cook Islands showing more gender parity this time, with 8,597 males and 8,862 females across the islands. In comparison, the 2011 census showed males made up a larger proportion of the population.
Tourism statistics in November 2017, compared with the same time in 2016 showed that visitors were up 1,555 to 12,684 for the year. The biggest change was in arrivals from New Zealand which were up by 1,024. The number of visitors from the USA rose by 419 and Australia by 165.
More Cook Islanders also travelled overseas this year, with 1,194 overseas trips up 8.5 per cent on last year.