THE handling of Bournemouth’s troubled surf reef has not been the resort’s “finest hour”, an MP has said.

Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood spoke after it was revealed that the reef’s builder would not be able to improve its wave before the winter weather sets in.

Instead, contractor ASR will focus on fixing damage to another part of the reef before returning to New Zealand.

Bournemouth council is still unable to say whether the company will receive the final £150,000 payment held back from the £3 million bill for the reef, or whether it has secured any commitment from ASR to return next year.

Mr Ellwood said: “It’s not been our finest hour when it comes to the debacle of the way this has been managed. We have to get it right.

“The sooner we can get this resolved, the better.”

He said he had no objection to Bournemouth council trying bold ideas and pointed out that the successful Air Festival had initially seemed like a gamble. But he said there had not been enough safeguards under the deal with ASR.

“I have no problem with stepping forward and getting into something new but when you do that, there must be some provision in place that when things go wrong, they don’t disappear back to New Zealand and turn their back,” he said.

He said the seafront accounted for 80 per cent of the tourism and that the reef had spurred the transformation of Boscombe.

“We shouldn’t forget how much that area has been regenerated,” he added.

Bournemouth council reiterated its statement that it was discussing with ASR “what work can realistically be undertaken before the weather deteriorates further”.

Only “repair work” could take place this year, said the statement from Tony Williams, executive director for environment and economic services.

The statement added: “At this stage we are unable to add any further information. However, an update will be provided on Friday.”