Dunedin could really do with some waves of a wand

The Wizard of Christchurch Ian Brackenbury Channell. PHOTO: NZPA
The Wizard of Christchurch Ian Brackenbury Channell. PHOTO: NZPA
Does Dunedin need its own wizard, asks Joss Miller.

The Christchurch City Council recently terminated its contract with the Wizard of Christchurch, to take effect in December this year.

For more than 20 years Ian Brackenbury Channell QSM has been on its payroll receiving an annual salary of $16,000.00, the job expectation being that the wizard ‘‘provide acts of wizardry for the city and other wizardry like services’’ for at least one hour a day.

The wizard was not required to provide the employer with a weekly time sheet and being public spirited and conscientious, his daily activities would invariably exceed that guideline.

Prior to the earthquakes the wizard made regular appearances in Cathedral Square but latterly is often seen at the Christchurch Arts Centre, standing out in his wizard’s attire and impressive beard.

Ian Brackenbury Channell came to New Zealand from Australia in the 1970s and was performing wizardry in Christchurch long before the council contract.

In fact the wizard’s popularity was noted in 1990 by the then prime minister Mike Moore, who asked if he would consider becoming the wizard of New Zealand.

It appears that offer was accepted and the Christchurch wizard also became the Wizard of New Zealand. This would seem somewhat honorary given the wizard’s energies and parochial affiliations have always been powerfully linked to Christchurch.

Through rain, hail, earthquakes and other calamities the Wizard of Christchurch has stood resolute casting spells on the forces of evil, bringing calm and comfort to its citizens.

In cutting him adrift the Christchurch council has stated that ‘‘He no longer fits the image of the city’’. This despite the wizard being a major force and proponent for the cathedral rebuild and retention of historic buildings as well as his continuing acts of wizardry.

Wizards of course are not infallible. A few years ago the Canterbury rugby team unexpectedly lost the Ranfurly Shield despite the wizard casting a winning spell prior to kick-off. His further exhortations during the game failed to turn the tide.

The team and Cantabrians were devastated. So too the wizard who felt his powers had failed him. He quietly headed south for a time to the tranquillity of Oamaru, where he was able to contemplate and rejuvenate. But Christchurch soon beckoned again.

The wizard has made it clear. He will not go quietly into the night and has every intention of continuing to wave the wand in his beloved city.

There is a golden opportunity at this point for Dunedin to step up and embrace its own wizard.

Imagine the Wizard of Dunedin! Children would flock in their hundreds. An instant and new tourist attraction. Pre-match spells could be cast at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Apart from regular appearances in the Octagon, the wizard could provide some light relief with the planned George St revamp and in waving a magic wand of optimism over the new hospital rebuild. This can only help add to Dunedin’s status as a Unesco City of Literature.

After all, wizards reputedly originated in Middle Earth with New Zealand having a natural affinity through the Lord of the Rings film series based on the fantasy novel by JRR Tolkien. Although complex, wizards are also capable of affection such as displayed by Gandalf towards the hobbits and in exhibiting that rare quality called wisdom.

In this Covid world some lightness and brightness is more important than ever. Come on Dunedin. Let Christchurch’s loss be our gain. Let’s find a wizard.

  • Joss Miller is a retired Dunedin lawyer.


Don't we already have a wizard as Mayor? He's been providing light relief since "elected". He could get together with his band of Hobbits at the stadium during rugby games and do great acts of intellect. I know that's a hard sell but no more idiotic than what the author proposed.