Mitiaro Aerial.jpg
Aerial photo of Mitiaro
Map of the Cook Islands
Area22.25 km2 (8.59 sq mi)
Coastline18.1 km (11.25 mi)
Highest elevation10.9 m (35.8 ft)
Highest pointwestern makatea
between Atai and Omutu
Population155 (2016)

Mitiaro, the fourth island in the Cook Islands group, is of volcanic origin. Standing in water 14,750 feet (4,500 m) deep it is four miles (6.4 km) across at its widest point.


Swamp on Mitiaro.

Mitiaro, also known as Nukuroa, is part of the Nga-Pu-Toru island group formerly, a volcano that became a coral atoll. The coral died forming fossilised coral (known locally as makatea).[1] The island is surrounded by a belt of this makatea, between 20 and 40 feet (6.1 and 12.2 metres) high and characteristic of islands in the southern group. The centre of the island is almost flat, quite swampy and contains two freshwater lakes, Rotonui (big lake) and Toto Iti (small lake).[2]

The lakes are teeming with eels (Anguilla obscura),[3] which the locals call itiki[4] and who reach the lakes from the Ocean through underwater connections,[3] and the imported tilapia from Africa where it is known as bream. Beaches are limited but there are subterranean limestone caves and the beach at low tide abounds in marine life.

Important Bird Area

The island has been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports populations of Rimatara lorikeets and Cook reed warblers. It is a non-breeding site for bristle-thighed curlews.[5]


Topographic map of Mitiaro.

The island has four villages, located close together on the western side, from north to south:

  1. Taurangi (a former village)
  2. Atai (also called Arai)
  3. Auta
  4. Mangarei
  5. Takaue

Among the populated lifted coral islands of the southern Cook Islands, only Mitiaro is not subdivided into traditional tapere.


Mitiaro School is located in the principal village, Atai. Takaue is the second largest village. Mitiaro Airport is located at the northern end of the island. There are three churches: the Cook Islands Christian Church, the Catholic Church and the Assembly of God.[2]

In May 2018 the island's diesel generator was replaced by a Solar Photovoltaic system.[6]


According to oral tradition Mitiaro was settled from Atiu, and was historically dominated by that island.[7] It was first discovered by Europeans when John Williams of the London Missionary Society arrived in 1823. He left behind a Polynesian teacher, Taua, who began converting the islanders to Christianity. The estimated population at that time was less than 100 inhabitants.[7] During the 1840s the island was attacked again by Atiuans.

In 1888 Mitiaro became a British protectorate as part of the Cook Islands Federation. In 1901 it was annexed by New Zealand.[7]

Historical population
1906 210—    
1916 237+12.9%
1926 238+0.4%
1936 265+11.3%
1951 305+15.1%
1961 307+0.7%
1966 293−4.6%
1976 305+4.1%
1986 273−10.5%
1996 319+16.8%
2001 230−27.9%
2006 219−4.8%
2011 189−13.7%
2016 155−18.0%


  1. ^ Mitiaro, Cook Islands
  2. ^ a b Melina Etches (10 February 2020). "When in Mitiaro, you do as they do". Cook Islands News. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b Jellyman, D. J. (1991). "Biology of the Shortfinned Eel Anguilla obscura in Lake Te Rotonui, Mitiaro, Cook Islands". Pacific Science. ISSN 0030-8870.
  4. ^ "Live Like a Local in Mitiaro". Cook Islands Tourism Corporation. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  5. ^ "Miti'aro Island". BirdLife Data Zone. BirdLife International. 2021. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  6. ^ "Solar power station opens on Mitiaro". Cook Islands News. 9 May 2018. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Alphons M.J. Kloosterman (1976). "Mitiaro". Discoverers of the Cook Islands and the Names they Gave. Cook Islands Library and Museum. Retrieved 23 July 2020 – via New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.
  8. ^ "Cook Islands 2016 Census Main Report" (PDF). Cook Islands Statistical Office. 2018. p. 46. Retrieved 19 August 2020.

External links

  • Map of Mitiaro

Coordinates: 19°52′S 157°42′W / 19.867°S 157.700°W / -19.867; -157.700

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