An exclusive summary by the website author who is a former BBC TV and radio journalist
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CORONAVIRUS LATEST  (Islands remain free from Covid-19)
Border restrictions will be amended "very soon" to allow visitors from New Zealand to visit the Cook Islands from 1 May. But it's not clear yet whether Kiwis would have to quarantine when they return home. New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern said her government is working towards May. Hopes of two way quarantine free travel have been raised after New Zealand announced a travel "bubble" with Australia from 19 April.

The content of this page - unless otherwise credited - is a summary of stories from  Cook Islands News, the daily newspaper of the Cook Islands which is published Monday to Saturday inclusive

Its web site is updated daily and is highly recommended as a trusted source of news.  This summary is published with permission of the copyright owners Cook Islands News Ltd.  Click on any underlined headlines for the full story on the newpaper's own website.  Photos unless otherwise credited are copyright Cook Islands News
Te Tauta village


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Cultural village dancers
The government is backing a bid to get world heritage status for a 600 year old village high in the hills around Rarotonga. Maungaroa was inhabited by Tinomana Ariki and his tribe long before the arrival of Christianity and was unihabited for many years before it was transformed into a cultural village visitor attraction. The   Ministry of Culture says HIghland Paradise is an "unparallelled example of a living marae" and its asking UNESCO to designate it.  Photo: Highland Paradise website
Two hydroponics and school gardens have been established on Penrhyn (Tongareva) to increase the consumption of locally produced fruit and vegetables. Handing them over, the Agriculture Secretary, Marama Anguna-Kamana said growing using water without soil was an innovative way of dealing with the challenges of the sandy soil on the remote outer islands. It would also increase food resilience in the event of disasters.
Photo:Te Tautua on the eastern side of the island is where most of the population of 226 live (Photo: Robert Broussard)

A new king has been crowned on Mangaia, and the entire population of the island was there to watch.  Tangi Tereapii was installed Numangatini Ariki at Te Maruata-Nui-o-Numangatini marae. The day long event was also attended by friends and families from Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu. Marguees 20 metres long were filled with food to share.
Mangaia's new king
Plans by a New Zealand businessman to launch a a new airline providing direct flights from to Rarotonga from Wellington and Christchurch have been put on hold. Mike Pero's was proposing to launch Pasifika Air with six return flights a week from June. But  the multi-milionaire says the uncertainty over a "travel bubble" with New Zealand means they will now have to wait. Above: artist's impression of the new plane's livery
washed up green turtle
A green sea turtle which died after ingesting a plastic bag has led to a renewed call to end plastic pollution.  The turtle was washed up on Rutaki beach on Rarotonga just before Christmas. Award winning ocean photographer, Charlotte Pioho has add her voice to the local environmental group, Te Ipukarea Society in urging islanders to eliminate their use of plastics. 
Polluted Muri lagoon
Muri lagoon, normally the jewel in Rarotonga's crown for swimming and snorkelling is now unsafe because of pollution caused by environmental conditions and human activity. Government scientists are advising that locals avoid it because it's saturated with a foul smelling dark coloured sediment.  Dead fish, eels, sea cucumber and marine worms have also been found along the shoreline. The scientists say swimming in the water could result in illness and they're closely monitoring it.
Plans to upgrade the airport on remote Manihiki are on hold because there's no funding to start the project. The aim is to seal and extend the tiny coral runway so it can handle larger planes and enable 34 people to land on the island at a time instead of the current 15. But the government is hoping work can start in July
What a catch
One of the largest species of reef fish has been caught off Manihiki. JeanMarie Williams is pictured with the 30kg humpback wrasse which his son, Gabral landed using a handline with octopus weat for bait. It was so heavy he could barely lift it.
The government is being urged to reveal its plans for rolling out a Covid vaccination programme. There's no commitment to a date and the assumption is New Zealand will organise and pay for it. Opposition Leader, Tina Pupuke Browne need reassurance if two way quarantine travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand does begin next month as the Prime Minister has indicated
The minimum wage in the Islands will remain at NZ$8 an hour at least until July 2022.  The uncertain economic climate caused by the Covid pandemic is one of the main reasons why. But there are fears the decision will drive more Islanders to move to New Zealand where the minimum wage has just been raised to NZ$20 an hour
 Islanders on remote Palmerston have been paying their respects to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh who died last week. The entire population stayed in their homes and flew the Union Flag and Royal Navy ensign at half mast to mourn the Duke who was particularly revered on the island.  He visited in 1971 on board the Royal Yacht Britannia, swam in a sea pool which was then renamed 'Dukes Pool' and is remembered each year with a public holiday on 28 February called Dukes Day.

Islanders are also fiercely loyal to the British Royal Family and claim links to them.  This photo was taken in 1971 when the Duke visited Rarotonga before heading to Palmerston. Read more about the islanders' royal connections here

PM with Cooksafe+ app on his phone
A newly upgraded version of the Cook Islands contact tracing app has been launched, as hopes continue to grow for quarantine travel between New Zealand and the Islands. It's seen as vital to opening up the borders to Kiwi tourists. It works on smartphones by logging encounters with other users and sending alerts if there's contact with anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus. Left: PM Mark Brown shows off the app at its launch