New Zealand city fires $16,000 a year wizard

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Ian Channell, known as The Wizard, has been a fixture in Christchurch's Cathedral Square for decades.  (Getty Images)
Ian Channell, known as The Wizard, has been a fixture in Christchurch's Cathedral Square for decades. (Getty Images)

The Wizard of New Zealand is being removed from the public payroll after over two decades providing “acts of wizardry and other wizard-like services” to Christchurch, at a cost of $368,000.

Christchurch Council’s decision to terminate their contract with the Wizard, Ian Brackenbury Channell, 88, brings a close to his 23-year employment, costing them $16,000 a year.

According to council leaders, the Wizard no longer fits their promotional vision for the “modern city”. Channell hit back, calling them a “bunch of bureaucrats who have no imagination.”

Council assistant chief executive Lynn McClelland told Stuff: “The council has met with The Wizard and sent him a letter thanking him for his services to Christchurch over the past decades, and informing him that we are bringing our formal contractual arrangement to a close.

“The promotional landscape in Ōtautahi Christchurch is changing, with new and different promotional programmes that will increasingly reflect our diverse communities and showcase a vibrant, diverse, modern city that is attractive to residents, domestic and international visitors, new businesses, and skilled migrant workers.”

English-born Channell first began performing his acts of wizardry in public in 1974, not long after moving to New Zealand from the UK.

Attempts made by the council to deter him from making his appearances in full costume in Cathedral Square were met with uproar from the public, and he was eventually appointed a Living Work of Art by NZ Art Gallery Directors’ Council in 1982.

According to his own website, he appeared as a mysterious wanderer in film ‘Starlight Hotel’, was the head of his own Cosmology Department at the University of Melbourne, between 1971-74, and hosts his own podcast.

He also describes himself as a “theorist (and practitioner) of post-feminist roles for men and a post nuclear family structure”.

On being laid off by the council, the Wizard said: “They are not thinking of ways to promote Christchurch overseas. They are just projecting an image of bureaucrats drinking lattes on the boulevard.

“Their image of Christchurch is nothing to do with the authentic heritage of the city. I am the original image of Christchurch.”

Despite no longer working for the council, the Wizard told Stuff he has no such intention to stop making his appearances.

He said: “It makes no difference. I will still keep going. They will have to kill me to stop me.”

He caused controversy earlier this year in a television interview when claiming women “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,” he added.

Undeterred by such controversy, the Wizard’s supporters have remained loyal, setting up a petition demanding the council reinstate him on the state payroll.

The petition reads: The Wizard of Christchurch is an iconic symbol to the City of Christchurch. Children love him and adults too - he is Unique to the city !!! No other city in New Zealand has their own long standing Wizard. He is interesting and fun in today’s harsh climate of covid and politics !!! Please sign to keep the Wizard - He is for the good side of humanity kind, playful and light hearted - we need more of that !!!!!”

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