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The Cooks Islands are a group of 15 islands situated in the South Pacific Ocean, approximately due West of Tahiti and due South of Hawaii. The largest island and administrative centre is Rarotonga. Map The Islands became self-governing in 1965 but New Zealand retains responsibility for external affairs and defence. The Government of the islands is carried out by a locally elected parliament consisting of 24 members but executive authority still remains with Her Majesty, The Queen of England in her capacity as head of the Commonwealth. The legal system is common law and is closely based on applicable statutes of England. English is widely spoken within the islands. Communications are excellent and both New Zealand and local currency are legal tender.