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An exclusive summary by the website author who is a former BBC TV and radio journalist
The following  - unless otherwise credited - is a summary of the latest stories from  Cook Islands News,  the daily newspaper of the Cook Islands which is published Monday to Saturday inclusive.

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Its web site is now updated daily.  The summary is published with the 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
This update: 20th February, 2017
All pages open in a new window or tab and link to the latest on-line editiion of the paper
New Zealanders living in the South Island will be able fly direct to the Islands again next year.   Virgin Australia is expected to repeat a weekly Saturday flight offering from Christchurch to Rarotonga which it introduced in 2016.  The service ran for 17 weeks from June to October. 
Students on bikes
A controversial new law making the wearing of crash helmets compulsory for most but not all bike and scooter riders is causing confusion and concern.  A number of tourists say they've been pulled over and ticketed by police, while young local riders have ridden by without helmets.  The law requires that anyone on a visitor's licence, holders of overseas motorcycle licences, all 16 to 25-year-olds and every motorcyclist and pillion passenger travelling above 40 km/h must wear  helmet. But Cook Islanders over 24 with a full local licence are exempt.  The local police chief said the law is for everyone's safety and he'll look into any cases of apparent failures to enforce it.
The Cook Islands black pearl industry, once the second biggest business after tourism, is continuing to struggle.  Latest government figures show that exports in the first half of last year were worth NZ$220,000.  That's a little bit up on the previous year, but shows a massive decline since 2010 when exports totalled NZ$1.57 million.

Manihiki pearl farm
The government says the figures suggest more pearls are being sold in the domestic market where prices are better.   There are just 10 active farmers and 14 others operating at what are described as "minimal levels".  Pearl farming is centred on the northern group island of Manihiki and the farms themselves look like the one above.
Remote Pukapuka is now producing food using hydroponics.  A project to introduce the technology has been completed and the first crop of the popular Chinese vegetable, Pak Choi should be ready to harvest in March.  In keeping with the community approach to living, the greens will be evenly distributed among island families.  The sandy soil of the Northern Group atolls can make growing a variety of greens a challenge and the richest soil is reserved for taro.  Hydroponics is providing an alternative.   Cucumber and tomato seedlings will be sent to Pukapuka by cargo boat soon and they'll be next to be farmed
Farming hydopinically
Islanders are being asked to remove ripe paw paws from trees to stop them becoming breeding sites for fruit fly. The local black fruit fly is particularly high at the moment and pawpaws, guavas, mangoes, oranges and other citrus varieties are all being damaged. Low market prices for paw paws are discouraging growers from harvesting them
Despite legal action and a big protest petition, the European Union has begun fishing for tuna in Cook Islands waters.   Four vessels have been licensed by the government to catch up to 7000 tonnes of tuna and other migratory species every year for the next four years using a controversial method called purse seigning.   More than 1 in 4 Islanders - around 4,000 people - signed the petition and a judicial review of the government's decision is pending in the High Court.  The EU will pay the Cook Islands NZ$2.1 million over 4 years for the licences and the government says some of that will be used to upgrade fisheries surveillance work and to provide fuel subsidies to local fishermen.   

Purse seigning
Purse seigning involves using a huge dragnet
(Public domain picture illustrating the process)
The price of fuel in the outer islands is going down.    Atiu is the first to benefit from a new Price Order by the government which has cut petrol prices by 22% and diesel by 25%.  It follows a full review of price margins which now reflect better the actual cost of supply. maximum retail prices in the southern group are now NZ$2.87 a litre for petrol and NZ$2.80 for diesel.  Consumers in the northern group will pay NZ$3.02 for petrol and NZ$2.95 for diesel.