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 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 www.cookislandsnews.com 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
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The Cook Islands has now been designated a 'developed nation' after six years of economic growth driven by tourism. It's means it will no longer qualify for some overseas aid and the Finance Minister, Mark Brown says the country will need to be smart about filling the gap left by departing donors.  He believes the way forward is " in the sustainable and innovative use of ocean resources and ocean technology."  The country is the first small nation in the region to be upgraded in this way by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Brown (right) thinks it will also mean more opportunities, particularly for young people. Photo: Cook Islands Government
Finance Minister, Mark Brown
Te Tauta village
Each of the two villages on Penrhyn is going to get its own cyclone shelter to help protect against the increasing threat of climate change. Some homes have already been moved back from the shoreline because of rising sea levels and storm surges. The island, also known as Tongareva, is just 5 metres about sea level at its highest point.  Left: Te Tautua on the eastern side of the island is where most of the population of 226 live (Photo: Robert Broussard)
Transforming Avarua town
Ambitious plans have been unveiled to transform Rarotonga's Avarua waterfront into what Cook Islands News is calling "the Monaco of the Pacific".  A saltwater swimming pool, sports courts, museum, cultural centre and park are part of a 20 year vision which involves reclaiming the lagoon right out to the reef. Scientists and biologists have been engaged to study the environmental impact. The Punanga Nui market would be the first to undergo redevelopment. 
But within hours of the news appearing on the newspaper's Facebook page, more than 200 comments have been posted, most of which have attacked the proposals. 
Read my own rant about this on Facebook and share your views

Above: Artist's impression from the draft Avarua Town Plan produced by the Cook Islands Investment Corporation
The Cook Islands' leading travel management group has launched a scheme which it hopes will save 200,000 plastic bottles going to landfill each years.  The Turama Pacific Group is has set up a bottling station on Rarotonga where tourists can get a free refillable aluminium bottle instead. They've spent over NZ$60,000 on the project which is being backed by the tourism department.
Left: Nathan Skews, the new manager of the Turama Pacific Travel Group's water bottling station with one of the aluminum bottles
Nathan Skews
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THIS UPDATE: 30 MARCH, 2020
CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE
 
Scientists collect crown of thorns starfish
The coral reefs around Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Palmerston are showing signs of recovery, according to a long-term study by scientists. IN just  published findings, the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation says they're showing signs of resilience in the face of the crown of thorns starfish, although it's still a serious concern around Aitutaki. And they're optimistic for the future of the reefs.
Duane Richman-Evans Jr
A young actor says his Cook Islands background has played an important part in his acting career which has now seen him land a role in a potential new Hollywood blockbuster. 16 year old Duane Wichman-Evans Jr is playing Rotxo of the reef tribe Metkayina clan in a sequel to the hugely successful film, 'Avatar'.  He was one of seven chosen from 15,000 young people who auditioned.  HIs acting career which has included role in NZ soap 'Shortland Street' began when he was three and went with his Cook Islands mother to an audition for a TV commercial.

Virgin Australia plane in flight
Virgin Australia has dealt a brutal blow to the tourism industry with an announcement that it'll stop flying to the Cook Islands from 21 July. In the meantime, and in response to the coronavirus, it will be cutting back on its services. The airline flies from Auckland to Rarotonga three or four times a week and carries up to 30,000 passengers a year to the Islands. Tourism's chief executive said he was "very disappointed" and they are working to cushion the impact. Photo: Virgin Australia
The Cook Islands has effectively closed its borders and stopped all inter-island travel. Anyone wanting to come into the country must first undergo 14 days quarantine in New Zealand, test negative there for coronavirus and then undergo another 14 days quarantine in Rarotonga. The Islands have now moved to a "Code Yellow" status which means  Covid-19 is contained but the risk of community transmission is growing. Additonally, cruise liners, pleasure craft and yachts are banned until 30 June and schools have been closed. There no confirmed cases in the Islands at present. . 

Please check the Cook Islands News website regularly for any updates
A United Nations committee has called on the Cook Islands to repeal laws which disriminate against same-sex relations. It's particularly concerned about the 1969 Crimes Act which criminalises consensual sexual activity between gay men. And it wants the government to set a clear age of consent to ensure adolescents who engage in sexual acts are not criminalised. Te Tiare Association, which represents LGBT+ people in the Islands has welcomed the recommendations and says current laws breach the country's constitution which enshrines equal rights.
Finance Minister, Mark Brown
Finance Minister, Mark Brown (right) has announced a NZ$61 million rescue package to prop up businesses and keep people in work.  Every employee will get NZ$304 a week - equivalent to the minimum wage - for three months.  Pensioners, care givers and the destitute will get a one off payment of
NZ$400 and child beneift will be doubled and if the school holidays are extended. Public health will receive NZ$5 milliion to help cope with the virus and  businesses will benefit to the tune of NZ$22.5m by way of debt repayment holidays, reduced superannuation contributions, tax credits and payroll subsidies.