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ASR liquidation cast doubts over future of artificial surf reefs

ASR liquidation cast doubts over future of artificial surf reefs
November 23, 2012

ASR Limited, the Raglan, New Zealand-based company behind the troubled Opunake reef at Taranaki and the Boscombe surf reef in the United Kingdom, has ceased trading.

The liquidation of the company, a leading global advocate of the creation of artificial surf/multi purpose reef breaks, casts doubt over whether either project will ever work as a surfing attraction.

The ASR (Amalgamated Solutions and Research) projects have been dogged by delays, poor performance and cost over-runs - with academic theories for the creation of artificial waves now very much in doubt.

Commenced in 2006, the Opunake reef project was at first expected to take just weeks to complete.

Cited as New Zealand's first artificial surf reef, the initial budget was $1.1 million but that blew out to more than $2 million as bad weather affected construction and lack of funds affected remedial work.

As late as August 2011, then ASR Technical Director Dr. Shaw Mead said the company was committed to completing the project, stating "ASR has definitely not given up on Opunake and has continued to work on the project with respect to surveying the structure and considering what is required for completion."

At Boscombe on the south coast of England, ASR developed an artificial surfing reef for Bournemouth Borough Council - which opened in November 2009 following a number of delays and setbacks during building works.

However, soon after the £3.2 million project opened, it was discovered that the reef was producing "the wrong kind of waves", rendering it inaccessible for many potential users.

ASR had been tasked with repairing the faults but the reef was then hit by a boat, causing structural damage that forced its permanent closure in April 2011.

Looking back on the project earlier this year, after his resignation from ASR, Dr Mead referred to learning lessons in "political and project management lessons."

Dr Mead told the Swellnet website in July this year that "the Council appears to have taken a 'hands off' approach both to addressing media misconceptions and ownership of the structure.

"The vessel that hit the Boz (Boscombe) reef ... likely had something to do with the fact that there were only two of the 12 buoys marking its position in place; it was not being managed as a Council asset.

"My personal view is that the wrangling over funds, political in-fighting and bad project management decisions prevented even the most basic management and maintenance being adhered to."

Dr Mead concluded "whether repairs will go ahead on Boz is anyone's guess."

Dr Mead left ASR in late 2011, while company founder Dr Kerry Black sold out his interest to American company Sealutions LLC in 2009.

With ASR having been due to correct the damage at the Boscombe surf reef its future is uncertain, although the Council have claimed it is being used for other marine activities.

Meanwhile, the Opunake Reef Trust is apparently reconciled to its reef never performing as expected while South Taranaki District Council has written off a $400,000 grant that it made to the Trust.

As for the future of artificial surf reefs, in his comments on the Swellnet website Dr Mead suggested that "the future for multi purpose reefs is very bright."

However, at the website of his new venture, eCoast, multi purpose reefs are referenced in relation to coastal protection rather than their generation of recreational surf. 

25th May 2010 - PAY-AS-YOU-SURF ARTIFICIAL REEF FOR THE GOLD COAST?

20th January 2010 - ARTIFICIAL DIVE REEF FOR GOLD COAST?

26th November 2009 - KIWI TECHNOLOGY BEHIND EUROPE’S FIRST ARTIFICIAL SURF REEF 

13th August 2009 - GREAT OCEAN ROAD TO GAIN DIVING WRECK

2nd October 2008 - ASR AT WORK ON UK SURF REEF


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However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

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