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What a year 2023 has been!

Updated: Jan 2

The end of a year presents the opportunity to reflect on the year that has been. For us at the Kongwak Butter Factory, we have had a lot to reflect on – 2023 has been jam-packed and presented us opportunities for which we are most grateful, challenges which we have learned from, and a need for focus, collaboration, and energy.

We want to thank you for subscribing to our website and interest in our developments. Here is a snapshot of the highlights of the work that has kept us on our toes this year:

  • Architecture – Brought onboard one of Australia’s most celebrated Architects, John Wardle, and his design team as our lead design partner to reimagine the historically and architecturally significant Kongwak Butter Factory for the future. Working with Wardle and supporting design partners, we have shaped a design which is sympathetic to the Bunarong landscape, a rich and holistic expression of Gippsland, true to existing heritage, and differentiated in quality and experience.

  • Experience – Shaped a guest experience strategy for the future Kongwak Butter Factory with Studio Ongarato – Catering to guests from near or far, we have a vision to create a destination that turns a spotlight on the people, places, food and culture that make South Gippsland and the Bass Coast region shine, by sharing and celebrating its many gifts.

  • Feasibility studies – Developed our Town Planning package, with 24 different assessments, plans and studies undertaken, producing 16 feasibility reports to fully understand and shape the engineering design elements required to support our Architectural design and site Master Plan (even we didn’t appreciate on the outset that it would require such exhaustive input!).

  • Business – Undertaken extensive research, business model design, and financial modelling work with market intelligence from Australia’s best destination operators to ensure that the historic factory buildings are able to be saved, and that the future Kongwak Butter Factory is commercially viable and sustainable, providing an enduring legacy for the region.

A photo from a design collaboration workshop with key design partners. L-R: Pete Wilson, PWLA; Sophia Brous, Arts & Culture Advisor; James Loder and Chloe Lanser, Wardle; Gemma Cosgriff, KBF; Yaron Kanor, Studio Y; Ronnen Goren, Jessica Hay, Freya Hope-Healey, Studio Ongarato; Matt Tice, Insurgence; John Wardle, Wardle; Tobias Münch, Studio Y; Damien Backholer, KBF.
  • Engagement – In addition to extensive informal conversations and presentations with interested community members, we have conducted 11 formal sessions with community reference stakeholder groups, to share our plans, discuss how impacts would be managed, and community and environmental benefits maximised.  We have also launched our website and social media profiles. A highlight for us has been spending time with descendants of Kongwak pioneers, people who worked at the Kongwak Butter Factory back in the day, and multi-generational dairy farmers and families who wandered around the old buildings with us, generously sharing their stories, memories, and experiences (including the smell of those milk cans!).

Leith and Jacqui Cruickshank inside the old Kongwak Cheese Factory. Leith was an electrician who worked at the Kongwak Butter Factory when operational. Jacqui’s father Norm McLeish was a cheese maker at the factory.
  • Celebration – Conducted our first collaboration, in line with our purpose and the factory’s history, with the MOULD Cheese Collective as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival regional edition. Connecting history to current legends of Gippsland as part of the Soft. Semi. Hard. Stinky. cheese masterclass at the Kongwak Hall.

A photo taken during the Soft. Semi. Hard. Stinky. cheese event.
  • Short term improvements – After 3 years, we have finalised the short-term improvements to the Butter Factory residence, to make this available on Riparide for holiday rentals, so that others can immerse themselves and enjoy their time in the Valley of Peace, as we love to do.

Before and after showing progress of the physical work done to the site: A view from the back of the Kongwak Butter Factory. Top - 2020; Bottom - 2023.

As we look to 2024, we will bring you updates on our plans as we start the formal Town Planning process, more collaborations to showcase the incredible talent, creativity, and quality produce Gippsland has to offer, more insight into the history of the Kongwak Butter Factory, its workers, the pioneers of Kongwak and its importance to the history of the region, and more…

Have a safe and enjoyable New Year celebration and we hope that your reflections might also provide you with a platform for hope and goal setting as to what 2024 might bring for you too.


Until next time,

Gemma and Damien

Kongwak Butter Factory

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