Prince Wil­liam and the quake cows

Kaikoura Star - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - MICHAEL WRIGHT

On Novem­ber 14, 2016, the most fa­mous an­i­mals in the world were two here­ford cows and one calf on the Mill­ton fam­ily’s Clarence Val­ley farm.

The trio were left stranded on small knob of land when the rest of their pad­dock dis­in­te­grated around them.

They were soon found by TV news cam­eras and their pic­tures went round the world, not that the Mill­tons knew it. Like much of the Clarence com­mu­nity, all their com­mu­ni­ca­tions were down.

When they were fi­nally res­ur­rected, more than 400 emails were wait­ing from friends and well-wish­ers who saw their cows on TV. One stood out. It was from a pri­vate sec­re­tary of Prince Wil­liam, and read: ‘‘Your friends in Eng­land are think­ing of you’’.

Global tele­vi­sion ex­po­sure no doubt alerted the palace to the cows’ plight, but the mes­sage’s ori­gins traced back to 2005, when the prince vis­ited the Mill­tons’ farm dur­ing a tour of New Zealand. The ex­pe­ri­ence had, clearly, stayed with him.

A year on, the three cows, safely res­cued, are all still on farm. ‘‘Pride of place’’, Der­rick Mill­ton said, but he in­sists there is no pref­er­en­tial treat­ment. The bull is go­ing out next week.

‘‘The cows were a di­ver­sion,’’ he said, ‘‘A happy di­ver­sion . . . The fo­cus was on [them] and I think it was psy­cho­log­i­cally a good thing.’’

Be­hind the cows has been a mam­moth re­cov­ery. The earth­quake de­com­mis­sioned about 80 hectares of the Mill­tons’ farm, buried tracks and de­stroyed about 10 kilo­me­tres of fenc­ing and 5km of wa­ter sup­ply pipes.

On the first day, Mill­ton or­dered thou­sands of dol­lars worth of ma­te­ri­als to re­place what was bro­ken. In the six weeks af­ter the earth­quake, more than 100 peo­ple helped to get the farm op­er­a­tional again, Mill­ton said.

‘‘The help that our Clarence Val­ley com­mu­nity re­ceived was over­whelm­ing.

‘‘Vol­un­teers and do­na­tions of food ar­rived from all over the coun­try to help with farm re­pairs . . . We made great progress as a re­sult.’’

Much of the hard work was done by win­ter, but an earth­quake is about more than phys­i­cal re­pairs. The cold weather brought some dark times.

‘‘We got into real low patch,’’ Mill­ton said.

The Mill­tons have re­cov­ered, but there is an in­escapable per­ma­nence in what hap­pened to them.

And there are cows, who have been im­mor­talised in print. Moo, Moo and the Lit­tle Calf Too, by Jane Mill­ton, Der­rick’s wife, shot up the chil­dren’s best sell­ers lists af­ter its re­lease in March. Moo and Moo and Can You Guess Who?, pub­lished last month, fol­lows a new gen­er­a­tion of earth­quake sur­vivors. There are worse lega­cies for a dis­as­ter re­cov­ery than three celebrity cows cap­i­tal­is­ing on their fame.

Two cows and a calf on the Mill­ton farm be­came world fa­mous a year ago when they were ma­rooned by the earth­quake

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