The Carter Fountain is a distinctive feature 150 metres (490 ft) out in Wellington Harbour from Oriental Bay. Installed in 1973, it was named after its benefactor, Hugh Carter, who drowned only days after the fountain's inauguration.
The Carter Fountain was installed in 1973 and first switched on in March of that year. It was originally to be named the Oriental Bay Fountain until the untimely death of its benefactor. At a cost of NZ$75,000, the fountain was a gift to the city of Wellington from local resident Hugh Carter. Carter was inspired by the Jet d'Eau fountain he saw in Geneva in the early 1960s. Carter initially dedicated the fountain to his parents George and Ella Carter who paid for the Oriental Parade flower garden.
Tragedy struck just days after the fountain was officially opened. Carter was about to sail to Nelson on his launch Kualani when he slipped and drowned in Wellington Harbour aged 55. The fountain was named the Carter Fountain as a mark of respect.
The fountain was originally maintained by the Wellington Harbour Board, and with the 1989 local government reforms, this responsibility transferred to the Wellington City Council.
The fountain spouts water 16 metres (52 ft) into the air. Following complaints from local residents about salt spray, a wind sensor was installed on the nearby band rotunda that prevents the fountain from operating above a given wind speed; sources vary whether this is 8 or 10 knots (15 or 19 km/h; 9.2 or 11.5 mph). The band rotunda also holds the land-based electrical components for the fountain.
Monthly maintenance is carried out by an electrician, who reaches the fountain in a row boat. Twice a year, divers check on the submerged pump. The annual maintenance costs NZ$45,000, of which NZ$20,000 is for electricity. The cost for replacing the pump in 2009 was NZ$29,000, during which time the fountain was out of operation for half a year. Eight floodlights are used to light and colour the fountain. The halogen lights were replaced in 2013 by LED light at a cost of NZ$21,000, with the new lights lasting up to 50,000 hours compared to 2,000 hours previously, and being able to be remote controlled.