A fountain of history

JAMES GREENLAND
Last updated 09:02 05/07/2012
Carter Fountain
AMY JACKMAN
City story: The iconic Carter fountain has an interesting history.

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The Wellingtonian

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The iconic Carter fountain in Oriental Bay had an unusual and rather tragic beginning.

Wellingtonian Hugh Carter wanted to give something back to his city.

Mr Carter spent $75,000 to build a fountain off Oriental Parade, modelled on a similar one he had seen in Geneva, Switzerland.

It was built by a local engineering company, with council input, and switched on in March 1973. Mr Carter dedicated it to his parents, George and Ella, and named it Oriental Parade Fountain.

Tragically, only days after the fountain was dedicated, Mr Carter died.

He slipped from his launch, the Kualani - which he had sailed from Nelson for the opening ceremony - and drowned in Wellington harbour, aged 55.

The Carter fountain was renamed in his memory.

The Wellington Harbour Board maintained the fountain until the Wellington City Council took over in 1989.

Council project manager Peter Hemsley said he tended to only get calls about the fountain from people complaining it wasn't going.

The Carter fountain is active in two-hour bursts four times a day, shooting seawater up to 16 metres into the air.

Oriental Parade residents complained that salt spray from the fountain lashed their properties on windy days.

To prevent that, a wind sensor installed on the nearby band rotunda cut the pump when breezes reach eight knots.

The band rotunda also houses the on-shore electrical components of the fountain.

Once a month, an electrician rows out to the fountain to perform checks and repairs.

The fountain has eight floodlights, which can be coloured for special occasions, and 24 umbrella-lights to make it visible on ordinary nights.

It generates a $20,000 annual electricity bill, taking total maintenance costs to about $45,000 per year.

Divers are employed every six months to clean the white surface tiles and check the submerged brass pumping mechanism, which is liable to corrosion.

"It is quite a big deal, changing the motor," Mr Hemsley said.

It was last replaced in 2009, at a cost of $29,000.

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- The Wellingtonian

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