6 Aug 2005

Depopulation our biggest threat, says Cooks prime minister

8:18 am on 6 August 2005

The Cook Islands prime minister says depopulation is one of the biggest challenges facing the country.

The nation has celebrated 40 years of self government in association with New Zealand this week.

Its population has dwindled from over 20,000, 40 years ago, to about 12,000 now, with many Cook Islanders living in Auckland.

The prime minister, Jim Marurai says about 500 people a year are leaving, despite the economy performing well.

Mr Marurai says young people in particular are not interested in traditional work.

Jim Marurai says the country has to work to provide better jobs to keep the young people home.