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 88-year-old wizard, also known as Ian Brackenbury Channell, has been a popular tourist attraction for more than three decades, addressing crowds in the city centre, with his flowing beard, straggly hair and wearing a long, black robe and pointy hat.
Ian Brackenbury Channell is known as The Wizard of New Zealand, apparently even on official documents like his passport. He's been on the Christchurch City Council's payroll since 1998, receiving an annual salary of $16,000 NZ (more than $11,000 in current USD) to "provide acts of wizardry and other wizard-like-services – as part of promotional work for the city of Christchurch," according to the New Zealand news site Stuff.
Nothing was off-limits for the modern-day Merlin, from castigating politicians to successfully leading a campaign to stop "an attack on the soul of the city" when it was announced the red public phone booths would be repainted blue.
He has been in demand casting spells to influence the outcome of events such as crucial rugby matches and being transported to Australia to perform a rain dance.
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.