Dual roles not enough for Keown

20:56, Nov 23 2012
Christchurch City councillor, and Canterbury District Health Board member, Aaron Keown

I sleep better every night knowing people like councillor Aaron Keown are representing my interests on both the Christchurch City Council and the Canterbury District Health Board.

Keown, who is also on the Canterbury Development Corporation board, has come in for some very uninformed criticism this week, just because he has missed eight of the 11 health board meetings this year - mainly because the meetings clash with council meeting times. 

For the two health board meetings he did attend, he was only partially present. Before going further, can I just ask who can say they are fully present at a meeting anyway?

Martin van Beynen
Martin van Beynen

Cynics might suggest Keown should never have stood for both positions - council and health board - and should, at the very least, have done the honourable thing and resigned when the meeting times clashed.

But that is to misunderstand an essential truth of someone as gifted as Keown. He just has to be. He does not have to be there.

We have had the predictable outcry from the carpers and moaners who make the goody-two-shoes assertion that people elected to bodies like the health board should at the very least attend meetings, however tedious they might be.


It's true Keown did not have a great deal of local body or health administration experience before his successful electoral bids, and some might think he needed to attend meetings to listen and learn from other members and staff.
What these whiners forget is that Keown owes his allegiance not to boring timetables and interminable meetings but to his voters, with whom he has an almost instinctive bond. Who else could have divined the red-button issue for Christchurch voters concerned about health was carparking at the hospital?

Keown has certainly been true to his election platform. By not attending meetings, he is freeing up a vital carpark somewhere in Christchurch. He could rightfully argue he is simply following the latest council staff attendance policy: On many days when they previously had to work, council staff now don't need to turn up.

The critics also make the mistake of underestimating Keown and get sniffy about his career in entertainment as a member of a popular band and the organiser of murder mystery evenings. The suggestion is that Keown does not have the background or education for the job. Snobs. 

Admittedly, attendance is quite important in a band - but critics will find it difficult to counter the suggestion that a murder mystery evening is excellent training for knowing when to be around and when not to be.

Moaners also show a fundamental misunderstanding of democracy. The essential feature of being a people's representative is the quality of self-belief. The belief you have the ability to make a contribution. You might lack experience, expertise, education and any relevant work background, but these are nothing compared to the essential feeling you have something to offer. If you think people deserve a bit of you, who are you to deny people that opportunity? And if you are well paid, in fact much more than you could command in the free market, that is nice, but, of course, not a motivating factor.

The real puzzle is why Keown does not spread himself more widely. Surely he should also be on the community board - and even a member of Parliament as well. He might like to try the mayoralty for size, and perhaps he could also do the chief executive's job as well. Once you remove the need to attend, the world becomes the limit.

In fact why should Keown limit himself to little old Christchurch? He needs a bigger pool. With parking a real problem in New York, perhaps he should put his name forward for the soon-to-be vacated position of secretary-general of the United Nations.

Keown is too much of a gentleman to point out that many elected office holders who do attend meetings might as well not have bothered, for all the use they are. Such a thing could not be said about the Christchurch City Council, where councillors like Helen Broughton, Jimmy Chen and Barry Corbett continue to provide a sterling service by being very much in attendance.

Most of those carping on about Keown would not know the first thing about what a health board is supposed to do. Given Keown's level of attendance, some might suggest neither does Keown, but that is a deliberately mischievous assertion, again overlooking Keown's great ability to understand ntsG things ntefrom afar.

Clearly he believed his  great intellect was unequal to one demanding position, and he really needed another to ensure his mental machinery had enough to do. Only miserable cynics would suggest he was having a bet each way. 

Some will now be calling for limits to the number of positions a candidate can stand for. 

For instance, an attempt might be made to stop Keown standing for council and as well as head of the United Nations. This would be a tragedy not only for Christchurch but for the rest of the world as well 

The Press