THREE Bournemouth council officers went on an 18-day visit to New Zealand and Australia to research the Boscombe Surf Reef.

They visited the headquarters of the eventual contract winner ASR, and the firm who make the surf reef bags, and had dinners with both.

The party also visited surf reefs in Australia, and at Mount Maunganui and Opunake in New Zealand, and a proposed site in Orewa.

The trip was made from February 20 to March 8 and cost £8,429.

On one weekend when they were not working, the party made a visit to Rotorua, which is noted for its geysers and mud pools and which won New Zealand’s Most Beautiful City Award in 2002 and 2006.

They also spent a day visiting the coastal resort New Plymouth to see its seafront and park regeneration schemes and had a tour of the town with the mayor.

The Daily Echo used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain details of the trip.

The council officers hosted three meals for a total of 13 people at a cost of £18.83 per head, so it could talk with trustees of the different surf reefs or councillors.

Tony Williams, executive environment and economy director, said: “If the team had not visited the surf reefs they would not have gathered such vital and in-depth knowledge, especially in terms of the problems incurred with the overall construction.”

He said the concerns meant the contract was eventually signed as performance based.


It is obliged to finish work by the end of the year and the final £150,000 payment is based on it providing quality waves.

He also said: “The trip provided invaluable knowledge and gave confidence on the minimal likely impact of the reef on coastal protection and on the positive ecological and economic impacts of an artificial reef.”

Mr Williams said the trip to New Plymouth was made because: “It was extremely beneficial for the director of leisure services, Roger Brown, to visit a similar development to Boscombe and look at best practice.”

The living and accommodation costs, not including their economy class flights and car hire, totalled £3,903, equivalent to £72.30 per person per day.

The council said their visit’s findings helped it agree the deal with ASR in the spring.

Written reports about what was learned on the trip, but which did not say there had been a trip, were presented at public council meetings in June and July.

Cllr Claire Smith, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said the council should be completely open about visits where public money was concerned.