The latest in modern technology is being used to honour and showcase the lives of 900 Wairoa World War I veterans who served overseas, and is set to be unveiled to the community at a dedication ceremony in Wairoa on July 21.

A WW100 project called SALUTE Wairoa, the country's first digital World War I memorial features two multimedia 65-inch (165cm) Touchtables containing maps, diaries, letters from the battlefields, films and two interactive timelines - a general one and a Māori Pioneer one.

SALUTE Wairoa comprised volunteers Dennis Munro, Liz Greenslade and Sue Wilson, who with a team of researchers and software specialists created the unique district memorial.

"The Touchtables are like giant iPads that can be operated simultaneously by one to eight people through the touch of a finger," said project manager Dennis Munro.


"They impress with enticing story-telling wizardry."

He said those involved with the project began with a hazy knowledge of who had served and what happened to them.

"Marae memorial boards, school rolls, cemeteries and archways and Papers Past research resulted in the known numbers tripling to 900 veterans - including 220 Maori Pioneers and 10 nurses," he said.

"Now we have a truer record of Wairoa's 'lost' veterans and contribution we wish to do them justice."

The Touchtables included a military record summary and attestation for every veteran and personal stories were revealed through soldier diaries, letters and family memories, using visuals.

SALUTE Wairoa researchers wrote 90 in-depth profile features after interviewing many of
the sons and daughters of WWI troops.

"There were 60 Wairoa families with their first-generation descendants alive to tell their
stories when we began this project five years ago," Munro said.

"We have lost some since, but many sons and daughters and other direct descendants are attending the dedication ceremony - some families lent hundreds of war photos."

One of the SALUTE Wairoa Touchtables based in the local library would also be part of a school outreach programme, an initiative of the library staff.

A second Touchtable would be on permanent display at the Wairoa Museum.

The Wairoa community including Wairoa District Council, local Māori incorporations, local
businesses, service clubs, veteran's families and members of the public contributed
$100,000, while the Lottery World War I Commemorations Fund, Eastern Central
Community Trust, First Light Foundation and Kingdom Foundation contributed $135,000.

Mayor Craig Little acknowledged SALUTE Wairoa's contribution of the Touchtables and local company Curve Technology's input of the bespoke software.

"There are hundreds of untold wartime stories or many that have long been forgotten, and utilising this technology to bring these stories to light will ensure they remain alive,"
Little said.

"Wairoa played an important part in the first World War and we need to acknowledge that
and the impact this had on the district and local families."

A karakia (blessing) for the Wairoa Museum's new Touchtable is planned for 8am on Saturday, July 21, and it will be open to the Wairoa community for the first time from 10.30am to 4pm.