New $3m proposal for Willow Court site

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LESS than a day after fire destroyed a fourth building at Willow Court, a local developer has revealed a proposal for council-owned buildings on the site.

Local construction firm Crusader Homes, owned by Justin Derksen, today announced its plan to develop a $3 million distillery and cellar door at Willow Court.

The business says it is working with Heritage Tasmania to ensure its plans are respectful of the history of the site and they have also been in discussions with the Derwent Valley Council as owner of the buildings it is interested in.

The proposal is in four stages:
Stage 1: Prepare buildings for restoration and restore the Allonah Building.
Stage 2: Construct distillery and bar in the courtyard between the Allonah and the Occupational Therapy building.
Stage 3: Restore Occupational Therapy building with a bar, kitchen and outdoor courtyard.
Stage 4: Restore Carlton Ward for bond storage as the distillery’s operations expand.

Mr Derksen said the driving force behind the proposal was the family’s desire to see developments in New Norfolk which attracted more visitors and jobs, as well as showcasing all the region has to offer.

“Our proposal for the Willow Court precinct includes the development of Tasmania’s first rum distillery in over 150 years with a cellar door, bar and function centre,” Mr Derksen said. “Adding to the growth of Tasmania’s boutique spirit industry, we plan to produce a spiced and an aged rum along with a sugarcane spirit.

“Living and working in New Norfolk, our family has strong ties to the region and we are really excited about the prospect of bringing a new business to the area that we hope both locals and visitors will enjoy year-round.”

Mr Derksen said Crusader Homes planned to employ an additional three apprentices from the start of the construction phase of the project. “Once the distillery is operational, we expect to create 20 jobs in the local region,” he said.

“We also have plans to work with New Norfolk High School to offer hospitality traineeships. We are passionate about this region and the opportunity to create jobs and provide training to the younger generation is a truly exciting prospect for us.”

Mr Derksen said the proposed development would remediate and revitalise three buildings within the Willow Court precinct, which have been empty for 20 years. “Our proposal has also been designed to sensitively address the history of the building and the ties many have to this important historical site,” he said.

“We are in discussions with Heritage Tasmania to ensure any proposed development meets and respects the history of Willow Court. We are currently also in discussions with the Derwent Valley Council who own [part of] Willow Court, and the local business and residential community to seek their input and feedback on the proposal and we look forward to continuing this conversation.”

Room 11 Architects director Thomas Bailey said the proposed design had been developed to give the building new life and aimed to add to the creation of a “new positive history” for Willow Court. “By adding to the bones of the existing fabric of the building we hope to stay true to the history of Willow Court, while also drawing inspiration from the site and surrounding landscape to generate lightness and joy,” Mr Bailey said.

“The distillery design celebrates function and by exposing visitors to the still and internal operations of the site we hope to include them as much as possible in the distilling journey.”

More information about the New Norfolk Distillery proposal is available at or by emailing Social media contact is also available via Facebook and on Instagram @newnorfolkdistillery.

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