RUSSELL - A new cenotaph on the Russell village green has enabled New Zealand's oldest town to hold its first dawn parade to mark Anzac Day today.

Russell RSA president Ian Stapley said the historic settlement had never had a cenotaph, which was strange given that it was the country's first township.

Residents decided the building of a cenotaph would be a fitting millennium project, he said. "Ours will be the first cenotaph of the new millennium, and hopefully they won't have to build any more."

The community raised most of the $28,000 construction cost, while tradespeople gave their time.

Work began on the stone cenotaph, beside the Town Hall, last August and ended in February. RSA members previously travelled to the cenotaph at Rawhiti, 34km northeast of Russell, for dawn parades.

Mr Stapley unveiled the new cenotaph early this morning. In about three weeks, time capsules will be placed inside it. A video of the cenotaph construction and unveiling will be stored on a compact disc to be placed with the time capsules, which will not be retrieved for 500 years.

The cenotaph includes rolls of honour for local soldiers killed in both world wars, and a plaque for the Korean War.