Neki’s passing the baton

4 minutes read
Posted 28 April, 2024
Caption Neki Patel right and Cole Mackie

A changing of the guard is underway at one of Queenstown’s most popular health clinics.

Highly regarded chiropractor Neki Patel is selling Queenstown Health, which he opened 1993, passing the business baton to colleague and protégé Cole Mackie.

Mackie took over 49% of the Gorge Road business at the start of this month and will own the practice outright next year. It employs three chiropractors, five physiotherapists, two massage therapists and two acupuncturists, all with a focus on treating Queenstown locals.

But Patel, who was recently appointed as New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific Islands’ representative on the prestigious International Federation of Sports Chiropractic (FICS) executive board, will continue to treat patients at Queenstown Health.

He’s just stepping back from owning and running the business, as he did with the practices he successfully established in Wānaka, Cromwell and Alexandra over the years.

“It’s an exciting time for me because as a clinician, I really just want to treat patients, and the stress of running the business is being taken over by Cole,” Patel says. “The amount of bureaucracy and paperwork you have to deal with these days is quite fatiguing.

“As a mentor, it’s really nice to see him progress to be able to step up into owning the business. I’ll be there to help him out but with a more hands-off approach that allows me more free time to spend with my family and friends, which is the most important thing for me. Why live in paradise and work like a dog?”

Patel, who arrived in Queenstown from London in 1992, has been chiropractor to the All Blacks, the Ice Blacks, Queenstown’s Southern Stampede, has been involved with the Australian PGA for 26 years, and with the New Zealand Open at The Hills and Millbrook.

He says treating sports pros has been fantastic for professional development but that’s not the highlight of his 30-year career in Queenstown.

“It’s a privilege to work with the sports people and teams, but the most rewarding thing is treating generations of locals - I’ve treated people as kids, then as adults, and then they come in with their children.

“There’s that really nice atmosphere of a family doctor, that personal care. That can be missing from health care these days. You treat such interesting people in a small town like this, their stories are so good, and even if you come to work feeling a little tired, they give you a lift.

“The sports stuff keeps you fresh and pushes the boundaries, but that’s been my highlight.”

Mackie is a testament to Patel’s family-friendly approach.

“I used to have headache problems as a kid,” Mackie says, “and I actually got treated for those headaches through Neki’s clinic in Alexandra, by one of his chiropractors, Simon Bourke.”

That gave Mackie the push towards being a chiropractor, so after school he headed to Auckland to study at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic.

“I did my time up there and was looking at different options and Neki had a position available, and it was always my goal to come back to Central, and ultimately own a business.

“Then, after a few years, when Neki suggested taking over, it seemed like the perfect time and opportunity.”

Mackie has also recently taken on the role of President of Sports Chiropractic New Zealand. Like Patel, Mackie is working with sports teams to continue his hands-on education, including supporting Southern Stampede to consecutive NZIHL titles, working with Queenstown Football Club, and the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation, recently travelling to Turkey for the U18 world championships.
“It’s such a punishing sport and everything can change so quickly,” he says. “One minute all will be fine, and the next you have someone with a dislocated shoulder, fractured wrist, or cracked ribs. You learn so much that you can apply directly when you’re dealing with patients in your community.”

Patel says valuing community has been key to the success of the practice, focusing on locals more than tourists, getting involved through charity work and being an active member of the community.

“I was very fortunate to come to Queenstown when it still had that village-feel but was filled with incredible business people, the likes of Les Hutchins, John Guthrie, Johnny Martin, Michael Hill,” Patel says. “They were all so open and supportive.

“They’ve said things that have struck a cord with me - John Guthrie for example told me to not be stupid like doctors practices, and to always own the building. So, I’ve always tried to use the businesses to own the buildings.

“My one piece of business advice for anyone starting a business is to know how you’ll exit before you start. You see an enormous amount of change over the years, so it’s time for me now.”

Mackie says having Patel as a mentor is invaluable as he dials in all that’s needed to run a successful established business.
“Although there is a change of the guard, the values of serving the local Queenstown community will never change,” Mackie says.


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