Previously, people had to turn up in person to register, said Secretary for Justice Tamatoa Jonassen. They would normally need to hire a lawyer to draft the corporate documents.
“Now everything can be done online,” he said. “As long as you have internet connection, you can register and maintain your company from anywhere in or outside the Cook Islands,” said Jonassen.
Business Trade Investment Board approval is still required for companies with more than 33 per cent foreign ownership. The online system allows this to be enforced prior to company registration. There is a residency requirement for directors.
Existing companies have a year to re-register their companies onto the online registry, and the re-registration process is free.
All Cook Islands companies and overseas companies doing business in the Cook Islands must re-register under the new Act by December 9, 2020 and create a profile and register online through the registry.
The public can also view company and entity records as clients of the registry and have the ability to see full details for companies or incorporated societies.
Documents available for purchase from $15 to $25 include company profiles, Certificates of Good Standing, and historical extracts.
It would then be kept updated through the annual returns of $50 and once a company’s annual return is more than 6 months late they will be struck off, so companies will need to comply with the requirements of the New Companies Act.
Prime Minister Henry Puna at the launch pointed out what a great benefit this was for island businesses who previously paid up to $1600 for the flight to come in to Rarotonga to do it.
In New Zealand, people can search the Companies Office website for free. But a fee must be paid to see an entire Cook Islands company record.
Lawyer Brian Mason said the Secretary of Justice and others involved in the project should be commended. “This is going to make it a great deal easier for owners of companies to file documents and create companies. It should also be more cost-effective for them as simple companies can probably be established now without the need to seek the assistance of lawyers.”
Jonassen said: “Overall, this is a great step forward for our people, and very timely as it coincides with the passage of our telecommunications bill and the arrival of the Manatua cable.”
The Companies, Incorporated Societies, and Personal Property Securities Registry, launched by the Ministry of Justice, was jointly funded by the Government of the Cook Islands, the Government of New Zealand, and the Asian Development Bank’s Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative.