News | 26 May 2023
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Friday Five: Things you might not know about the Carter Fountain

The iconic Carter Fountain has been around for five decades in the capital’s harbour – but how much do you know about it? Here are some random facts from Wellington City Archives.

Water fountain in the middle of oriental bay.
Wellington City Council Archives, BN001-1951

1. It was donated by Hugh Carter, who never saw the opening ceremony

The Carter Fountain was built in 1973 and was donated by local businessman Hugh Carter. He dedicated it to his parents George and Ella and to the people of Wellington city. Tragically a few days after it was dedicated, Mr Carter slipped from his launch – which he had sailed from Picton for the opening ceremony – and drowned in the harbour aged 55.

2. It’s made out of concrete

Inspired by the Jet d’Eau fountain in Geneva, Switzerland, the Carter Fountain is a concrete structure with a main jet reaching 16 meters and umbrella jets that shoots water sidewards. 

3. It works on a timer

It operates up to four times a day and there is an inbuilt sensor that turns it off in strong northerlies so as to not spray beach goers. How considerate!

Carter Fountain with water spraying upwards in the harbour.

4. It wasn’t always loved…

The Carter Fountain was initially controversial, with people writing to newspapers in 'horror', with one person regarding it 'as a bauble to please a child while at the same time disfiguring the serenity of the sea and sky'. However, it quickly found favour with the people of Wellington city with frequent requests for it to be turned on at all times, with one person asking so that they could impress their friends visiting for lunch.

5. It contributes to the city’s art and culture scene

Originally lit by halogen lamps with coloured gels, the Carter Fountain has always delighted with its lighting displays. In 2014 LED lights were introduced enabling a wider range of programable colour options. The Performance Arcade has taken the fountain to new heights with projections of ballerinas, swimmers and local taniwha Ngake and Whātaitai in the mist of the spray. For the 2022 festival people could project their own faces high above the fountain through the artwork Into the Light created by Amber Strain. 

Watch out each Friday for a fun list of five great activities to do, places to explore, or things to discover in our awesome city.