An American company has “walked away” from Raglan town centre without a word — leaving a large vacant office space next to Vinnies and its former director, Shaw Mead, saying he’s perplexed as to what’s going on.

The Wainui Road first-floor premises which until early this year housed ASR Marine Consultants and Research now lies vacant and the company has disappeared, says Shaw, although he adds he’s aware of some ongoing legal action in the background.

“I resigned from ASR one-and-a-half years ago as a director,” Shaw told the Chronicle this week, “and one year ago didn’t renew my contract.”

As a co-founder of ASR — which was originally based at his home office in Whale Bay — the longtime Raglan resident and environmental scientist said it was “quite upsetting” to see the business he built up over 15 years shut down locally, despite it still having interests in California and India.

But he concedes he had a good indication of what might have happened, citing “very poor management” as the reason behind the company’s apparent collapse in New Zealand.

ASR was bought out three years ago by a Californian-based group, Shaw explained, and he resigned as director 18 months later because it became “top-heavy” with management at the expense of technical staff. “I couldn’t see how it (the company) would work,” he said.

The upstairs office area on Wainui Road was stripped of its contents and vacated earlier this year. “Tenancy available” adverts in the Chronicle public notices column describe it as a combined administration, kitchen and toilet facility area of 260 square metres and direct enquiries to Raglan lawyer Jon Webb’s Hamilton office.

Shaw said he still owned 20 percent of the company. But he made clear he was currently heavily involved with his new company eCoast, which he started last September on leaving ASR. It operated across Asia-Pacific, Europe, Africa, the Americas and in other parts of the world, he said. “We are doing really well.”
His new consulting and research business was broader based than ASR, focusing not just on coastal management — of which artificial surf reefs were a small part — but also on both marine and freshwater ecology. “We’ve diversified,” he explained.

However Shaw said he still had some input into surf reef projects which 20 years ago, with the new technology available, were to be the biggest growth area.

Two ASR-designed surf reefs were built in India and there’s a research reef at Mount Maunganui, although its five-year consent has now expired. Meanwhile there’s another wave-making reef off Opunake, in Taranaki, which he said never got finished after the worldwide recession hit.

Shaw said he took three colleagues with him when he moved from ASR to his new eCoast. His new company now has six partners and was looking to build a good, strong consultancy. As part of that a move from his home office in Cliff Street to commercial premises could be on the cards next year.

Meanwhile former Raglan resident Dr Kerry Black, who at one stage owned 54 per cent of ASR, is understood to have sold out to American interests more than three years ago and to now live in Australia.

Edith Symes