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New Zealand council ends contract with wizard after 23 years of service

The official Wizard of New Zealand, perhaps the only state-appointed wizard in the world, has been cast from the public payroll, spelling the end to a 23-year legacy.

The Wizard, whose real name is Ian Brackenbury Channell, 88, had been contracted to Christchurch city council for the past two decades to promote the city through “acts of wizardry and other wizard-like services”, at a cost of $16,000 a year. He has been paid a total of $368,000.

The Wizard, who was born in England, began performing acts of wizardry and entertainment in public spaces shortly after arriving in New Zealand in 1976. When the council originally tried to stop him, the public protested.




In 1982, the New Zealand Art Gallery Directors Association said he had become a living work of art, and then, in 1990, the prime minister at the time, Mike Moore, asked that he consider becoming the Wizard of New Zealand.

“I am concerned that your wizardry is not at the disposal of the entire nation,” Moore wrote on his official letterhead.

“I suggest therefore that you should urgently consider my suggestion that you become the Wizard of New Zealand, Antarctica and relevant offshore areas … no doubt there will be implications in the area of spells, blessings, curses, and other supernatural matters that are beyond the competence of mere Prime Ministers.”



Since then he has performed in Christchurch, rain-danced in New Zealand and Australia during droughts, and was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in the 2009 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

The council said it had sent the Wizard a letter thanking him for his services to Christchurch over the past decades and informing him they were closing the book on his contract, a council spokesperson, Lynn McClelland, said.

The Wizard said the council had decided to stop paying him because he did not fit “the vibes” of the city.

“It implies that I am boring and old, but there is nobody else anything like me in Christchurch.”

When asked if he would curse the council over its decision, he said he preferred to give blessings.

“I give children happy dreams, general good health, and I want to make bureaucrats become more human.”