News World The Wizard of New Zealand: A calling that became a $15,000-a-year job

The Wizard of New Zealand: A calling that became a $15,000-a-year job

Ian Brackenbury Channell is preparing to exit the public stage as the Wizard of New Zealand.
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It’s the land of Gandalf, Saruman and Radagast. But it turns out there was another magical creature living in New Zealand all along.

His name? The Wizard. No, really.

Ian Brackenbury Channell, now 87, emigrated to New Zealand in the 1970s where he found his true calling: The British-born man went on to become Christchurch’s official wizard.

Fully committed to his role, he even had a driver’s licence issued to “The Wizard” (despite not legally changing his name), while the Christchurch City Council pay him roughly $15,000 a year for his “wizardry”.

But now he’s getting ready to hang up the staff, and is in the process of readying his successor, 39-year-old Ari Freeman.

How does one become a professional wizard?

Great question.

After becoming a Royal Air Force officer in Canada and teaching English at the University of Tehran in Iran, he made the move to Australia.

The Wizard of New Zealand, aka New Zealand educator, comedian, magician and politician Ian Channell in 1969.

It was after he lost a teaching fellowship at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) that he managed to convince the vice-chancellor to give him a new position instead – UNSW’s first official wizard.

“I’ve invented a wizard out of nowhere,” The Wizard told CNN.

“There were no wizards when I arrived in the world, except in books.”

His journey then took him to the University of Melbourne, where he says he ran the cosmology department.

The university said he was not employed as faculty and was only involved within the student union.

And finally, after his wife and most of his friends left him, he made the move to Christchurch, where his career as The Wizard took off.

To him, the job isn’t about casting spells or trying to impersonate JRR Tolkien’s Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings but instead to be a provocateur.

“Every day the world gets more serious, so fun is the most powerful thing in the world right now,” he told CNN.