Magic while it lasted: Official wizard of New Zealand loses contract after 23-year spell

Magic while it lasted: Official wizard of New Zealand loses contract after 23-year spell

The official wizard of New Zealand has been cast from the public payroll to spell the end to a 23-year legacy.

The wizard, 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 (€9,728) 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,” Mr 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.

But he has also encountered controversy with off-colour comments about women.

In an April screening of channel Three’s comedy current affairs show New Zealand Today, the wizard said he liked to tease women by telling them they were devious, and said “they use cunning to get men who are thick”.

“I love women, I forgive them all the time, I’ve never struck one yet. Never strike a woman because they bruise too easily is the first thing, and they’ll tell the neighbours and their friends . . . and then you’re in big trouble.”

The council said it had sent the wizard a

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