Cook Islands' name change proposed to reflect its Polynesian culture

The Cook Islands' may change its name to reflect the country's Polynesian culture.

On Monday, the chairman of a Government committee set up in January to consider a name change, Danny Mataroa, said there was clear support to drop the Cook Islands name.

"When the committee members, which includes Cook Islands historians and people with deep traditional knowledge, met we decided it was time we change the name of the country," he told AFP.

While initially the committee considered including an indigenous name alongside the Cook Islands moniker, it now believes changing the name altogether is preferable.

"I'm quite happy to look at a traditional name for our country which more reflects the true Polynesian nature of our island nation," Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown told RNZ.

The nation is currently named after Captain Cook, a British explorer, who arrived in the nation in the 1770s.

While he originally called the group of islands Hervey Islands, it was changed by Russian explorer Adam Johann von Krusenstern.

The committee is evaluating 60 proposed names that came from public submissions and will submit their choice to the Government in April.

In the 1994, a national referendum to change the name failed when most Cook Islanders voted to keep the name.

But Mr Mataroa said that was because not all traditional leaders from the country's 12 inhabited islands were involved in the process.

The committee wants to avoid a referendum this time due to the costs, but Mr Brown said it would probably be required.

While the Cook Islands is an independent nation, it was under New Zealand's jurisdiction between 1900 and 1965.

However, New Zealand continues to have a free association with the nation, meaning that it can act on its behalf in terms of foreign affairs if the Cook Islands nation requests it. Cook Islanders are also citizens of New Zealand.