She is foraging on the footpath outside her Mount Maunganui home in hot pink sneakers and activewear, looking for discarded cigarette butts.
Eyes to the ground, Susan ("Su") Hodkinson is carrying a clear plastic bag.
Trash is her calling.
A self-described "litter womble" and "foot soldier", the 69-year-old has spent 50 years picking up litter on a daily basis, mainly targeting cigarette butts and shards of glass, which she says, hurt people.
Close friend Dena Gray estimates that Hodkinson has picked up 600 tonnes of rubbish in her lifetime.
"She could probably fill up a Hercules no worries."
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The former social worker won a 2019 Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year award for services to the community and a certificate of achievement for her services to children in the senior category of New Zealander of the Year awards.
"I've always been a cleaner," she says, explaining that she hates rubbish and the human scope of it needs to be understood.
She doesn't count the mountains she collects; or recycle "which hurts me", because public bins aren't in enough areas.
"Other people can do the citizens' science stuff. I'm not interested in that, I'm interested in getting it off the roads.
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"I don't want it to go down the stormwater drain, I don't want to swim in it, I don't want it to go into the great Pacific garbage dump.
"I just think its got to stop."
At 1.57m and 52kg, Hodkinson's worn a Celtic knot ring for "everlasting life" since 24, and is a pocket rocket of determination and a survivor.
In 1994 the single mother survived an aggravated home invasion in her Bain St home in Mount Maunganui, which left her for dead and scarred her for life.
Her offender was never caught.
Fight or flight
On Monday, March 7, 1994, she and her only child Sven, 7, spent a windy night watching television.
The then 44-year-old put Sven to bed and sometime after, had a shower.
When she exited the shower shortly after 10pm, she opened the bathroom door to get pyjamas from her linen cupboard and saw a male, thought to be a teenager, rise "out of the carpet".
"He had a bandanna and a hood and I thought 'here's a go'.
"What the bloody hell are you doing in my house?," she yelled, and tried to shut the bathroom door whilst simultaneously fearing for her son.
The offender pushed the door back open and she put one hand on the door knob and the other on the doorframe and delivered a high kick.
The male lurched backward and then forwards, driving a knife 8cm into her chest and back out, whilst making a noise she describes as "primeval".
The knife cut the subclavian artery from the heart and injured the brachiocephalic vein, causing her left lung to fill with blood and collapse.
She chased him out of the house through a sliding door, before dragging her phone off a bench and flaking out. She then came to and dialled 111 whilst on her hands and knees.
Her son slept through the ordeal.
"I remember [the police] saying that they were going to break the door down and I said: 'Come through the garage it's not locked'."
Her internal garage housed her car and an Optimist boat.
It was thought that the offender may have been hiding under the boat before entering the house.
He stole from the home but because the case is unsolved, Bay of Plenty Times Weekend cannot disclose what he took.
Tauranga Police Sergeant Trevor Brown says Hodkinson's "life-changing" case has become inactive but remains open.
Ten years ago, police received a new lead but couldn't advance it further.
"It was a vicious attack… She was lucky she didn't die from it," he says.
"She fought for her life, really, not only at the scene but for weeks afterward in the hospital."
Forensic testing at the time wasn't as advanced as it is today, he says, with DNA being a game changer for linking suspects to scenes.
"It's sad that Su worked her entire life trying to help struggling youth, which strengthens police focus to bring some resolution."
Alliances can change over time and he encourages anyone who has information to contact him directly.
If the offender was found she would ask him "why?" and thank him for not harming her son.
Hodkinson spent nearly six weeks in hospital and had an operation in the third week to clear her chest of blood and move a rib.
After the attack, she tried to sell her house but it never sold and she still lives at the same address.
Two years after she was left for dead, she had a breakdown.
"I'm quite good at bravado [but] every time somebody comes up behind me and I feel them before I see them I get panicked," she says.
"My stomach is always up in my ribcage.
"What I learned was that you can only be a victim for a finite amount of time and then the world goes on.
"I've never trusted the world enough to be a victim, ever.
"I had a 7-year-old and I didn't want to blight his life."
Her son, now 33, is a Boeing 777 pilot.
Love of adventure
Hodkinson has been a single mother since her son was born.
Born at the Narrow Neck Naval Base in Takapuna in 1950, she was raised in the Mount from 8. Her father was harbourmaster and a fifth-generation Australian nicknamed "Tich".
Her mother, who was in the Air Force, was English and met Tich during the Victory day March in Sydney.
Hodkinson followed their love of adventure and after university travelled extensively and has continued to do so later in life picking up litter wherever she goes.
She was a tomboy and "icebreaker girl" and surfed in the days when not many women did. She went to university on a studentship when few women went to university and travelled instead of settling down "in search of a great surfing wave".
Dropping litter in the beachside town she loves "dishonours" it.
It has become her mission to campaign for better practices.
Every quarter of the year, she takes her broom and rake and walks to the beach access at the end of her road.
Here, she clears dead leaves and rubbish and does the same under the skateboard ramp on Maunganui Rd. If she doesn't, she fears that one day it'll burn down.
She extends her free caretaker service to other areas of the Mount and has a list of things she'd like Tauranga City Council to do to improve rubbish woes.
When new mayor Tenby Powell was campaigning, she took up his offer to meet residents at Sidetrack Cafe and "chew my ear" whilst walking up Mauao.
"I chewed both ears and I picked up rubbish as we went up. I put it in my bra, it's a good pocket."
Some of the things she wants to see are:
An increase in public selection bins that aren't so spread apart, and separate cigarette bins.
She wants every household to have two recycling bins; and for the public to remove bottle lids so that they don't fall into the gutter when bins are emptied and end up in the sea.
She wants public signs on how to dispose of rubbish properly (signs on the backs of buses is one idea); and for council and road transport contractors to use broom and clippers to sweep gutters and trim overhanging vegetation, where the vacuum truck can't get to, like stormwater drains.
Furthermore, venue and park cleaning contracts for festivals and sports matches need to accommodate car parks and neighbouring streets, not just inside the venue itself. She uses Blake Park as an example.
"I want everyone who uses a park and venue to ensure it's clean when they leave."
She adds that residents and business owners, including cafes and bars, need to sweep their back alleyways and front of house.
"I understand there's a financial cost [to filling skips and bins] but for goodness sake, do it."
She runs a "No cuts, no butts" website and Facebook page, where she regularly posts photos of her litter hauls or shares news stories about people dumping waste.
"Tossers tossing," she captioned one post.
She doesn't wear gloves when cleaning but knows it would be safer.
"I've got very nimble fingers but I haven't got nimble palms and I don't like pinchers [long claws for grabbing rubbish without having to bend over]."
She collects rubbish in plastic bags and once the contents have been discarded, she washes the bags to reuse.
The invisible collector
She'd like the council to consider Litta Traps like the ones Auckland Council's Wai Ora-Healthy Waterways is trialling at Waiheke Island.
The traps, which look like a deep fryer basket, sit inside stormwater catch pits filtering plastic and rubbish before it can reach our waterways.
She concedes that the council can only do so much with limited resources and a large catchment, but the public can all play a part in helping.
She's "invisible" when collecting rubbish on her own.
"Some people say: 'good on you' and I say: 'Yeah, it doesn't pick itself up' or 'you could do it too' ."
She's not afraid of public shaming in the hope it will be a deterrent.
"Cigarette smokers, none of them flick their butts," she jibes.
She gives smokers the gift of an unopened Eclipse Mints tin with closable lid and tells them: "This is an astray and if you want to kiss your girlfriend and she doesn't smoke, the mints are really good as well."
Rubbish around Mount Maunganui isn't getting worse but it's constant.
"It's becoming more okay to pick up other people's litter but I've lost a few friendships out of it."
I ask her what she means.
"They go for a walk with me and they're telling me something and I've ducked down and then I'm back.
"I'm awful, I can't walk in a straight line either."
Gray says that going for walks with Hodkinson is like watching Wimbledon vertically.
"She's incapable of walking past a piece of rubbish."
For all the raised eyebrows she gets though, Hodkinson is "extremely smart" and one of the most "wonderfully whimsical" people in the Mount.
"She doesn't care one bit about what others think of her," Gray says.
"People describing her as eccentric and alternative isn't going to stop her.
"I think of her as a groundbreaker in a lot of respects.
"You look at her life, she's been doing things that weren't the norm well before they were the norm.
"She's an unusual and fascinating person and she brings a lot of world into her local view.
"Su doesn't just pick up rubbish she picks up people."
Former colleague Wendy Coxhead nominated Hodkinson for New Zealander of the Year and says that when she left Child, Youth and Family (now Oranga Tamariki), she took a wealth of knowledge of the whakapapa of every whanau in Tauranga with her.
"That's a real loss for this organisation."
Hodkinson retired four years ago after 39 years as a social worker, but provides supervision and mentoring for social work students and has travelled to Cambodia with Waikato and Massey Universities.
"Protection of the environment and protection of children are the same to me as the result is a brighter future."
She says in Taupō, Waihī and Raglan they have their own "litter wombles" but the difference is their clean-ups are organised with council.
"I could have a high-vis vest. I could go out on the highway because it gets really dirty on the highway."
The most unclean day is recycling and rubbish day with the wind. "Argh, it's so clean on Saturday, and then boom!"
A member of the local Ratepayers, Residents and Retailers Association, she doesn't stop for litter unless there are three pieces and she always notices more than three.
She swears like crazy: "What f*****t has left this McDonald's here?", and finds lots of unmentionable items, but on one occasion scored a pair of keepable, black brocade pants in her size.
"It's quite good problem solving, it's quite zen, you meet lots of people and it's really good exercise.
Her everyday actions and courage of convictions come from a reservoir of bravery that's needed to get through an attack.
"I want to change the tossing culture," she says. It's not good enough people don't care.
"I used to believe that if the place was clean people would keep it clean.
"I no longer believe that."
# Police encourage anyone with information about Su Hodkinson's case to call Sergeant Trevor Brown on 577 4300 or phone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
# To find out more about Su and her litter mission, visit the Facebook page: No Cuts No Butts - Mount Maunganui.