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 www.cookislandsnews.com is updated daily and is highly recommended as a reliable 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
This update: 23rd May, 2019
Swimming danger sign
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Aitutaki is on the road to generating all its electricity from renewable sources.  The first phase of a new solar energy project is due to live in June when the massive array of panels pictured above are put into service.   They'll generate 750kw of power which means the island will be able to cut its fossil fuel consumption by 25%.  Phase two, scheduled for soon after June, will provide a further megawat of power and reduce the consumption by 60%.


Aitutaki solar array
Goldman Environmental Prize winner, Jacqueline Evans with her award
Jacqueline Evans in her Rarotonga office
Conservationist Jacqueline Evans has won the world's most prestigious environmental prize for the five year campaign she led to protect the Islands' stunning marine diversity.   She was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize - referred to by some as the 'Green' Nobel Prize' - for outstanding achievement for Islands and Island Nations.  It recognised her tireless efforts which resulted in the government passing the Marae Moana (Sacred Ocean) Act in 2017.  The law mandates the sustainable management of the Islands' entire ocean territory of nearly 1 million square kilometres (763,000 square miles).  She said she'll use the award money to support the environment that many Cook Islanders depend on and that so many tourists pay to experience.  This video which was shown at the awards ceremony in San Fransciso tells Jacqui's story.   Photos above are of her with her award and in the Marae Moana Coordination Office on Rarotonga where she's the director.  They are published with the permission of the Goldman Environmental Prize
Cultural learnig for the next generation
Around 120 children aged 6 to 16 have been learning about their Islands' culture.   Local organisations, Korero o te Orau and Manava Ora o te Ivi Maori have been teaching them about  sustainability and the use of natural resources, marine conservation, the environment and the Cook Islands Maori language.  Activities included coconut husking, making fishing rods and stilts from local wood and bamboo and singing.  The organisers say it's important to pass on cultural knowledge to future generations and this is the third such event they're run.
The Asian Development Bank is forecasting a major slowdown for the Islands' economy, in part due to a shortage of accommodation for tourists.   It expects a slump from 7% last year to 6% this year and 4.5% in 2020.  ADB says tourism remains a leading sector but capacity to meet demand is a constraint and a decisive factor for growth.  Despite the forecast, the Islands will have the second strongest growth in the Pacific region.
Four restaurants and the cinema on Rarotonga have been hit by cyber criminals demanding money.   Tamarind House, The New Place Cafe, The Rickshaw and La Casita Mexican Cafe saw staff locked out of their accounts, their point of sale system and files.  A local IT specialist helped them to respond to the attacks without paying the demanded ransoms.   Unlike the retaurants, the cinema wasn't abel to recover its data and three years of spreadsheets and box office records were lost. 
The country's water safety boss wants tourism operators fined if they send visitors out into treacherous parts of the Rarotonga and Aitutaki lagoons without proper advice. Tourists have died swimming in the strong currents near the Avaavaroa and Papua Passages and near Vaimaanga on Rarotonga.  Brent Fisher, who's president of the Water Safety and Surf Lifesaving Council says the the  Passage, wants a new law fining or even banning unsafe operators.  The Council offer safety courses to operators but one has said compulsotry training would be "heavy handed".
Manganese nodules liked these would be mined
Gerald McCormack
The leading expert on the biodiversity of the Islands is calling for a "precautionary approach" to plans for mining mineral deposits on the seabed around the Cooks.   Gerald McCormack (left), who for 40 years has studied and recorded the local natural heritage, says that would result in "only a slight increase in our negative environmental impacts". 


He supports the idea of a single mine and its approval preceded by a full environmental impact assessment with public participation.  He says that only if that proves environmentally acceptable, should a second mine be considered.  The proposed mining of manganese nodules (right), particularly in the area between Penryhn and Aitutaki is mired in controversy with Greenpeace among those claiming it could destroy the delecate ecosystem. 
The Cook Islands has won a prestigious tourism award for an unprecedented fourth year in a row. The elite USA Global Traveller magazine whose readersare among America's most wealthy and discerning travellers voted it the Best Island Pacific Rim.  An awards special edition of the magazine features a  story called "Undiscovered Luxury in the Cook Islands" which the Tourism Department hopes will encourage more high income visitors. 
Nursing chief Mary Kata
The new chief of nursing has highlighted a shortage of nurses in the Cooks.   Mary Kata said there are 118 across the country with just 31 in the outer islands.  Rarotonga has 76 and Aitutaki has 12.  But the next largest island, Atiu has only 3.  Mary wants to recruit Islanders first and foremost.  And she's also looking for older nurses who can teach the importance of the bedside manner. 
MET OFFICE LAUNCHES NEW WEATHER FORECAST SITE
The Cook Islands Meteorological Service has launched a new weather forecast site which they say will make it easier for locals and visitors to find out about current and expected conditions across the whole of the country.  It includes a rainfall indicator for Rarotonga, satellite images and coastal and open waters forecasts.  Click here to visit the site
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