My journey: Darren Mills

Darren Mills I’m Darren Mills, and my journey through life has been an exciting blend of adventure, passion, and resilience. From an early love for the water to navigating the highs and lows of the tourism industry, my path has been shaped by the experiences and challenges I’ve encountered. My father was a diamond importer and wholesaled to Fijian jewelers. One of his clients, a wealthy businessman from Suva, offered us his apartment for a summer, so we lived in Fiji for four months. During that time, I went diving. Our neighbor in Suva was the harbor pilot, and I often joined him at five in the morning to bring in container ships, which further fueled my passion for boats. As a teenager, my interests shifted towards meeting girls, and at 16, I became a radio DJ, working the midnight to dawn shift on ZM. Despite my new interests, I continued to enjoy boating in my spare time and obtained my skipper’s ticket as a backup plan in case radio didn’t work out.

Having lived in Hamilton for my radio career, I saw an opportunity on the river. About 10 years ago, we got involved with the Walpa Delta, but the owner eventually moved it to Auckland. After the Delta left, I worked on The Lakeland Queen in Rotorua, where I got to know the tourism industry. During this time, I kept thinking about the potential for a sustainable tourism business on the Waikato River, catering to travelers between Auckland and Rotorua. I just needed to find the right boat—one that was big enough to be profitable but small enough to manage costs when it needed maintenance. In the best year, we served 10,000 to 12,000 passengers. Unfortunately, our company faced financial challenges and had no other choice but voluntary liquidation after it failed to sell. Waikato Explorer Ltd encountered various financial speedbumps, including Covid-19 lockdowns and the postponement of Fieldays, leading to debts in the hundreds of thousands. After the company liquidation, I discovered the world of online gambling, which opened a new chapter in my life. This unexpected turn has introduced me to new opportunities and adventures, continuing my journey of exploration and growth.

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