Official wizard of New Zealand dropped from payroll following two-decade spell

Ian Brackenbury Channell had been contracted by Christchurch city council since the 90s. Credit: AP

The official Wizard of New Zealand has been dropped from the public payroll following more than two decades in the job, according to reports.

British-born Ian or "Jack" Brackenbury Channell, 88, had been contracted by Christchurch council for the last 23 years to promote the city through "acts of wizardry and other wizard-like services".

But his $16,000 (more than £8,000) a year contract has now been dropped because it is understood his services no longer fitted in with tourism bosses' modern plans for the city.

Mr Channell slammed the council as a "bunch of bureaucrats who have no imagination" and insisted "I am the original image of Christchurch".

“I don’t like being cancelled," the Wizard was quoted as saying in New Zealand news site Stuff.

The Wizard has played a prominent part in the city's tourism for decades. Credit: AP

“They are not thinking of ways to promote Christchurch overseas. They are just projecting an image of bureaucrats drinking lattes on the boulevard," he added.

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

Mr Channell took up the paid job with the council in 1998.

He was hailed as a "living work of art" by the country's Art Gallery Directors Association in 1982, and two years later, then-prime minister Mike Moore wrote to him asking if he would become the official Wizard of New Zealand.

The Wizard is understood to receive his final payment from the council in December, after earning $368,000 (almost £190,000) over his two-decade spell.

"It's a hard life... Wizards never retire," he told ITV's This Morning programme last year:

He told ITV's This Morning programme in an interview in August last year that he would never give up his "craft" and said he has a "huge following amongst the ordinary people - the hobbits".

Mr Channell said: "Wizards can't retire. We either have to drop dead or be outsmarted by some better Wizard and humiliated. There's always a battle for supremacy."

"It's a hard life because there's no support group for wizards, unlike the church, the university, the political system - we're on our own," he added.

The Wizard in 2019 visiting the floral tribute following the mass mosque shootings in Christchurch Credit: AP

"Every step of the way we have to fight for our existence."Council assistant chief executive Lynn McClelland told news site Stuff it was a "difficult decision" to cancel the contract and thanked him for his work.

She said bosses wanted to focus on different promotional programmes to "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.”