A former city councillor during the Sir Hamish Hay era is making a bid to return to local politics. Gabrielle Stuart reports.

During his nine years as a city councillor, John Burn served on dozens of committees, led the city council as acting mayor and had a say in many big projects which shaped Christchurch - but his proudest achievement was a humble footbridge.

After 27 years away from local politics he is campaigning once again for a seat on both the Canterbury District Health Board and on the Fendalton-Waimairi-Harewood Community Board, hoping to do the "small things that make a big difference to the community".

The Park Terrace footbridge, which runs between Salisbury St and Hagley Park, was one of those things.

"I was the only one of the 21 councillors that wanted it. I said people have nowhere else to cross, it's ridiculous, so I moaned on and moaned on for more than a year, until we got our bridge."


Some of those "silly things" were where a community board member could make the biggest difference to the community, he said.

He served as a city councillor until 1989, the same year the late Sir Hamish stepped down as mayor, and he said he enjoyed the lively debates in the council chambers over those years.

He was involved in the council amalgamation being worked through during that time, and he earned a public profile when he supported the Wizard in his "Telephone Box War" in 1988 in repainting blue Telecom telephone boxes around Christchurch red.

A retired barrister, Mr Burn spent 23 years practising law in Sydney, only returning two years ago after the death of his wife, Wendy Glasson.

She died after 12 years battling terminal lymphoma, which was what motivated him to run for a place on the health board, he said.

"I spent an awful lot of time in there with her, and, quite genuinely, I enjoy hospitals," he said.

He said the doctors and staff at the hospital had always made him feel like "part of the crew" even during the most difficult times, and he hoped to be able to pay that back through work on the health board.

He was also concerned about health board's low performance in areas like elective surgery and cancer treatment, its financial situation and the amount of decisions that it was making behind closed doors, he said.