The Ruapehu District Council (RDC) is asking for photos of people buried in cemeteries, as part of an innovative project that uses 3D mapping and online cemetery records.

They are using drone technology to create 3D maps of cemeteries, providing an online "walk through" experience that allows people to locate and virtually visit a grave site.

Ruapehu mayor Don Cameron said that it is believed to be a first for any New Zealand council.

"We want to provide the ability for people to visit any Ruapehu cemetery online, view it in 3D, and select a grave site that will then display the relevant records for that grave - including a picture of the buried person," said Mr Cameron.

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"With 10 cemeteries around our district, many dating back to early European settlement, council has been working with a local historian to locate photos of the buried people.

"We are hoping that family members alive today will be able to help supply photos of their relatives that we can use to help populate the database."

The project has been designed and led by the council's IT manager, Stuart Campbell, who has pioneered the use of drone technology at the council.

It has previously been used for aerial mapping of the landfill and in support of civil defence recovery work.

Mr Campbell said that the council wanted to improve the level of service it could offer to people looking for relatives or researching their whakapapa and ancestry.

"By putting our cemetery records online and linking it with 3D mapping, we are hoping to make searching for Ruapehu cemetery information a more tangible experience, while taking some work pressure off our front counter staff," he said.

"At this stage, we are just concentrating on getting Manunui Cemetery fully mapped in 3D and tied in with our cemetery records online, before moving on to our other cemeteries."

Mr Campbell said that anyone who would like to support the project by providing a photo of their relative can call the council on 07 895 8188. Or they can email info@ruapehudc.govt.nz including the name of the person, and, if known, the cemetery plot number.

Alternatively, post can be sent to: GIS Cemetery Project, Ruapehu District Council, Free Post 492, Private Bag 1001, Taumarunui 3946. A return address should be included for the photo.