A Dunedin mother is "heartbroken'' after a memorial to her son who died last year was trashed and some of his ashes stolen.
The memorial at Halfway Bush Primary School for Harley Shuttleworth, a former pupil of the school who died from kidney cancer, was vandalised on Sunday.
Harley's mother, Melissa Shuttleworth, said the vandalism was "really sad'' for the family, who were preparing to mark what would have been Harley's 9th birthday on Thursday.
"I would have put something there for him but now I just won't, I can't.
"It is really sad but I was actually really angry when I found out as well.
"And I'm heartbroken about it.''
Ms Shuttleworth said a kowhai tree planted at the site by Harley before he died had been snapped and toys broken. She was most upset, however, because a small bag containing some of his ashes was missing.
"Just not knowing where he is, they could have just grabbed it and chucked it.''
The ashes were buried in bark below the memorial plaque on January 2 to mark the first anniversary of Harley's death.
Harley, who was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms tumours in 2012, attended Halfway Bush School until three weeks before his death.
The memorial at the school was fitting because he "loved'' it.
"He liked school that much he wanted to go on weekends.''
Ms Shuttleworth suspected children playing at the school may have caused the damage.
"It is such a small community up here and everyone did know him.
"All of the kids from the school were there when we unveiled the memorial.''
Parents needed to educate their children about the significance of such sites, she said.
Ang Stewart said her son Brock Stewart (9) first spotted the vandalism.
"We were hoping that he would be exaggerating, but he wasn't, she said.''
Ms Shuttleworth said the family was planning to hold a celebration at a restaurant for Harley's birthday instead.
She did not know if the family would leave items at the memorial in future.