Since 1998, UK-born Ian Brackenbury has been paid a solid $16,000 NZD (roughly 11,300 USD) per year to be the official wizard for the city of Christchurch in New Zealand. Now after slightly more than two decades on the city’s payroll, authorities are officially cutting ties with Brackenbury in an attempt to modernize the city.
The concept of a “city wizard” is a bit wild, but it mostly boils down to Brackenbury acting as sort of a living tourist attraction, albeit one that’s wizard-themed. The Guardian says that the Christchurch city council had contracted Brackenbury to promote their city through “acts of wizardry and other wizard-like services,” after Brackenbury was seen performing his wizard shtick in public spaces throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s.
When the city council tried stopping him, the public protested (because, let’s be real, who doesn’t love a good magic man) and New Zealand’s prime minister finally relented in 1990, asking Brackenbury if he’d consider being New Zealand’s official Wizard.
“I am concerned that your wizardry is not at the disposal of the entire nation,” Moore wrote at the time “I suggest therefore that you should urgently consider my suggestion that you become the Wizard of New Zealand, Antarctica and relevant offshore areas […]”
“No doubt there will be implications in the area of spells, blessings, curses, and other supernatural matters that are beyond the competence of mere Prime Ministers,” Moore added.
Brackenbury graciously accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history. While The Wiz spent most of his time in Christchurch’s main square dressed in his full Wiz garb—pointy black hat, black robes, staff and all—he’s been called out to the farther reaches of New Zealand and Africa to uh, “rain dance” and “ward off dry spirits” during the bouts of extreme drought these regions tend to go through. In at least one case, those dances apparently worked! The New York Times wrote in 1988 about the South Island getting buckets of rain about half an hour one of The Wizard’s performances.
‘’I live in my own universe,’’ he told The Times, adding that he had “no need” for a driver’s license, bank account, or social security number because he was a “fictional character.”
Of course, reality catches up with us all. In recent years, Brackenbury has come around to realizing that his Wizard persona isn’t enough to ward off parking tickets, old age, and the end of his contract with the city that’s employed him for the past 23 years. A Christchurch council spokesperson told the Guardian that it wasn’t anything personal—it was just that, well, wizards weren’t that cool anymore, and weren’t a part of the “vibrant, diverse, modern city” image that Christchurch wanted to promote to tourists and residents.
Brackenbury told the Guardian that he’d still be keeping up his usual wizardry over in the Christchurch Arts Centre for anyone that came by, even if he wasn’t on the city’s payroll anymore. Canceling the contract, he said, “implies that I am boring and old, but there is nobody else anything like me in Christchurch.” Frankly, we’re inclined to agree.