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About Us

The Wanda Foundation was established in July 2021 by performing artist and environmental ambassador Anna van Riel.

Anna is the founder of Plastic Free Wānaka; a non-profit with the focus on supporting communities to reduce single-use waste at a grassroots level.

Her one-woman environmental stage show, Waste Free Wanda was launched under the banner of Plastic Free Wānaka, but soon expanded beyond the Wanaka community.

With a desire to reach more communities in New Zealand, Anna formed The Wanda Foundation in order to bring awareness and solutions further afield.  With a keen focus on advocating for the arts, The Wanda Foundation believes that in order to be our best creative selves, we must ensure we have a healthy environment to be creative in.

Anna Van Riel The Wanda Foundation

Anna van Riel

Chief Activator

The Wanda Foundations founder Anna van Riel is based in Lake Hāwea.

For 8 years Anna was a director of non-profit grassroots organisation Plastic free Wanaka which was launched in 2016, and spent 3 years on the board of trustees for Kiwi Kids Music, growing the children’s music sector in Aotearoa.

As a singer/songwriter and creative, Anna launched her one-woman 1980’s inspired rock opera for kids called Waste Free Wanda in February 2020.The show focuses on imparting tools and ideas around ‘Simple Swaps’ and what we can do, at a time when children are bombarded with all the things that feel overwhelming on the planet, including single-use waste.

Through her journey of creating arts with an environmental message, Anna noticed a gap in the arts sector that could offer a higher level of support to artists whose work has a focus on kaitiaki for Papatūānuku, and thus The Wanda Foundation was born.

Anna tours both Waste Free Wanda and her folk & jazz music in New Zealand.

Anna is a touring performing  artist, and a mother of two. She loves growing veges, homesteading with her hubby Locky, and doing the occasional jazzercise routine in 80’s getup.

Anna Robinson The Wanda Foundation

Anna Robinson


Anna (the other Anna), works by day as a coordinator for Otago Catchments Community. Anna has deep connection to the arts through her years as a dancer both in Aotearoa and Australia. Her passion to catalyse positive and sustainable change for the future is evident through her work and home life. She is experienced in running community based arts and sustainability events, loves nothing more than bringing people together for fun and learning and goes mad for performance art that provides for this. At home she is raising 2 children, growing veges and building soil for her gardens.

Anna is committed to continue sharing and developing her skills, support positive outlets for education and the arts and sees The Wanda Foundation as an immensely important and critical part of bringing arts and education together to help catalyse positive change.

Ella Lawton The Wanda Foundation

Ella Lawton


Since forever, Ella has been passionate about caring for the environment, and the people and communities who depend on it. For 20 years Ella has studied and pursued a deeper understanding of what inspires people to care for the environment as much as she does. From her research and experience, Ella knows the best way to support and empower people’s learning and motivation for change is through fun, creative and engaging experiences. Ella believes in order to create a sustainable future we need a Waste Free Wanda character in every town, which is why she is so excited to be part of the Wanda Foundation.

Ella currently works across multiple agencies, where she supports the primary industry sector to move toward land management practices that create thriving environments and people. Ella has had a varied career having been involved in local government as an elected member, sat on several funding bodies, worked for tertiary education institutions teaching strategic sustainable practice and holds a PhD in resource accounting (specifically using the concept of the ‘ecological footprint’).

The Wanda Foundation Rebekah De Jong

Rebekah De Jong

Rebekah has had a lifelong interest in the arts, dabbling in music, dance, writing and the visual arts and engaging in all things creative.

She completed a BA at Otago University majoring in English and Art History and subsequently moved to Central Otago where she worked in tourism, hospitality, and event management before taking on the role of Arts Coordinator for the Central Otago District Arts Trust.

Rebekah embraces the diverse nature of this role which involves everything from project management to strategy development, event advertising to mentoring and supporting artists, identifying and applying for funding and much more. She is passionate about ensuring the arts are an integral part of the culture of our district.

Rebekah advocates for further recognition of the value of arts in a community. She is involved with several local arts groups as well as Creative Communities Central Otago.

Rebekah has instigated, coordinated, facilitated, and curated a number of public arts projects, exhibitions and events in Central Otago and loves to support others to do the same.

Rebekah also works for the local radio station where she is learning about production, advertising, and the colourful world of media.

In her spare time she reads widely, loves poetry, enjoys op shopping, going to the gym, gardening or taking to the hills with her enthusiastic black Labrador.

A member of The Wanda Foundation board of trustees since 2022, Rebekah is a committed and powerhouse addition to the team.