Damaged city too much for Wizard

The Wizard came to the rescue of St James of Avonside Resthome Manager Sue Milligan and dog "Molly".
The Wizard came to the rescue of St James of Avonside Resthome Manager Sue Milligan and dog "Molly".

The Wizard has quit Christchurch after the earthquake, but not before wading through knee-deep water to help a rest home and rescue a dog.

Ian Brackenbury Channell is taking his 91-year-old mother to Oamaru and plans to leave the city for good.

''I'm very unhappy about what has happened to my lovely Christchurch.

''I'm heartbroken.

''I love the buildings and the place, but so much of it has gone,'' The Wizard said.

Fixing the town had  ''gone too far''.

''It's beyond my wildest powers,'' he said.

For nearly four decades, The Wizard of New Zealand has been donning a pointy hat and robes and spouting forth his many and varied views on life, love and religion to crowds in Cathedral Square.

The 78-year-old, who moved to Christchurch from Australia in 1974, said the earthquake was the last straw and it was time to retire and leave town.

''It's probably the end of an era for me. The town I love so much is gone.''

An arson attack on his home in St Alban in 2003 and a lack of support from the council and tourism operators were factors in his decision to leave, he said.

On Tuesday he was at his home in Avonside preparing to go and perform in Cathedral Square when the quake struck. It was like being in a ''cocktail machine'', he said.

However, his house was largely undamaged.

''I couldn't believe it there wasn't a single crack. Perhaps there's a bit of magic.''

After checking on family he waded through water to get to St James of Avonside, a rest home, which cares for about 50 elderly people.

While there he rescued Molly, a brussels griffon dog, from drowning in water, which had bubbled up from the ground.

The dog belonged to the rest home's co-owner Sue Milligan.

''It would have broken my heart to lose her. I can't bare the thought of it. She brings a lot of enjoyment to residents.''

Milligan's business was badly damaged in the earthquake and is still without power and water.

Chefs had to cook on gas, she said.

The business' repair bill from September's shake was about $1.5 million. She estimated the new damage would cost double that to repair.

''We are only just coping. We can't keep on like this.''

The rest home desperately needed volunteers to help clear away liquefaction. Water, paper cups, plates and sanitary wipes were also needed, she said.

The Marlborough Express