How a tree change can create life-changing opportunities
When Navneet and Anju (Annie) Choujar were looking for a country change, high on their list of priorities was finding a business opportunity to sink their teeth into. What they didn’t realise when they chose Lockhart in the Riverina, was that they were unlocking a world of opportunity and that the community would play a strong role in their decision process.
“It was primarily the business opportunity but before making the move, we came and stayed in Lockhart for a few days, meeting the locals which encouraged us to go ahead,” said Navneet.
Originally from India, the couple moved from Sydney in May 2021, seeking a place to work in the same location as where they lived. With grown up children, they were searching for an easier, quieter lifestyle, with affordable property and living. Lockhart ticked a lot of boxes, including accessibility.
“Our children are settled in Canberra so Lockhart seemed ideal as it was within an easy drive to Sydney, Melbourne, Wagga and Canberra,” said Navneet.
Purchasing the Railway Hotel Lockhart in the middle of a pandemic, the business owners’ resilience was tested but they persevered and got to implementing creative business offerings.
“The move came at a very difficult time due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions. It has taught us to be resilient and think of avenues to grow. We have introduced Indian food which draws people from various places, which has helped us survive during the lockdowns.
“Being off the main street is also a disadvantage. We have tried to overcome the negatives by trying to provide services and activities that were not present. For example, we have opened an Indian Takeaway in the main street, installed a vending machine next to the bank, we organise events, attend the Lockhart Markets (1st Sunday of every month), Saturday night movies, Bollywood nights, Yoga sessions and craft workshops to name a few,” he added
While Navneet admits these challenges pushed them, the couple now spends a lot more time together and it has meant they have more time to explore new hobbies.
“I am a writer/filmmaker and enjoy my downtime to catch up on both. Anju finds some time to pursue her skincare passion and has a side gig running,” said Navneet.
The Lockhart Shire also incorporates smaller townships of The Rock and Yerong Creek which are growing fast and offer great opportunities for remote working, all within an easy drive to Wagga Wagga and Albury.
Despite the trials and tribulations that have taught the couple a lot, they are still highly positive about their Country Change.
“We would definitely recommend for the perks that come with living in the country. Overall this has been a good move. Property is affordable and there is an opportunity to start a small industry with Industrial land on offer. Rental properties are hard to come by so it’s definitely suitable for those planning to buy or build. Here, we are able to own a property which was not possible in Sydney. We also don’t need to travel to work and since both of us work at the same place, Annie and I can be together most of the time.”