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Cook Islands Cultural and Historic Places Trust

Established through the Cultural and Historic Places Act 1994-95, the Cook Islands Cultural and Historic Places Trust is designed to recognise and acknowledge various sites throughout the country that has an element of historic significance and/or traditional cultural Importance.

Cultural and Historical sites in the Cook Islands play a very important part with regard to educating our younger generation to our history, our heritage and our traditional past.

Many of these sites are the “story-books” of our ancestors as they remind us who we are and from where we came. All this is part and parcel of what the Cook Islands, and its people, are today.

Paengariki Marae : Aitutaki
Paengariki Marae : Aitutaki

Then there is the tourism aspect to all of this.

Many visitors to our shores are keen to learn something of our heritage and history. And so with Registered Sites with the Cultural and Historic Places Trust having appropriate signs with brief historical explanations as to each sites significance, visitors to our shores will be able to experience and appreciate more fully what the Cook Islands and its people are all about.

A “Site Inventory” has recently been completed listing 181 potential historical sites in the Cook Islands that need further investigation and review as to whether they qualify for Registration and official classification under the Cook Islands Cultural and Historic Places Act 1994-95.

In this regard to this Act, there are four broad categories of classification as follows :

  •  Archaeological Sites : These include Marae or Koutu Ariki sites and other places of historical significance from the Pre-European era that may require excavation work.
  •  Traditional or Cultural sites : These sites could be from any period of history which reflect a place or location where a significant historical event, or series of events, took place.
  •  Historical sites including Buildings : These are the sites which are unique or special in some regard and reflects a period of time or series of events during part of our history.
  •  Historical sites of Interest : These are sites that are not of much historical significance, but are of historical interest because of an event or series of events which happened there.

Part of the role of the Trustees of this Trust is to consult with the owners or traditional landowners of the various sites throughout the Cook Islands and to seek their support and endorsement for official Registration and classification under the Act as a special cultural or historical place.

It needs to be clearly understood that the Cultural and Historic Places Trust has not been put in place to take control of any site or to dictate to the owners or traditional landowners what “they” should do in regard to “their” historical site.

But rather, the Trust is in place to help and assist these people by having their site registered, and therefore acknowledged as being a historical site having played a significant role in the history, heritage or traditional culture of the Cook Islands.


Orongo Marae : Atiu
Orongo Marae : Atiu

Howard Henry

Anthropology Officer
Ministry of Cultural Development
Rarotonga, Cook Islands.