Christchurch: New Zealand city parts ways with its wizard

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The Christchurch WizardImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ian Brackenbury Channell, the former official wizard of Christchurch

The New Zealand city of Christchurch has cast its official wizard from the payroll after 23 years of service.

Ian Brackenbury Channell, 88, was paid NZ$16,000 (£8,200; $11,280) a year to provide "acts of wizardry" and promote the city.

However the city has now ended his contract, saying it is going in a more modern and diverse direction.

Christchurch is the only city to have had an official Wizard since 1982, the city council's website says.

Mr Channell told local media that he no longer fitted "the vibes" of the city because he was a provocateur.

"They are a bunch of bureaucrats who have no imagination,'' he told the New Zealand news website, Stuff.

Since he started as the official wizard more than two decades ago, Mr Channell has been paid some $368,000 under a unique tax-free status.

According to his website, he holds a New Zealand driving licence under the name The Wizard.

He is regarded as a tourist attraction for Christchurch, has performed rain-dances in New Zealand and Australia during droughts, and was on the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 2009. He was prominent during protests against the demolition of heritage buildings following the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes.

Mr Channell was even declared a living work of art by the New Zealand Art Gallery Directors Association in 1982.

But he has also been criticised for his remarks about women. Among other comments, he said "never strike a woman because they bruise too easily" on a comedy current affairs show in April, according to The Guardian.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ian Brackenbury Channell visited a memorial for the victims of a mosque attack in Christchurch in 2019

Born in London, Mr Channell studied sociology and psychology at Leeds University before moving to Australia where he taught sociology at the University of New South Wales.

He moved to Christchurch in the early 1970s and became a regular fixture in the city square, where he would speak while standing high on a ladder dressed in his long cloak and pointed hat. The police tried to arrest him, but this enraged the public, and instead the square was made into a designated public speaking area.

In 1990, the prime minister at the time, Mike Moore, asked that he "urgently consider" becoming New Zealand's official Wizard.

"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," Mr Moore wrote in a letter.

Mr Channell told Stuff that he will continue appearing around the city and talking to the public as he has always done.

"I will still keep going. They will have to kill me to stop me," he said.

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