Plaques have been stolen from a memorial wall at an Auckland cemetery during a "brazen act of vandalism", exposing urns containing ashes.

Approximately 20 bronze plaques, which carried the names of the deceased, were stolen from Paparoa Howick Cemetery in East Auckland.

Auckland Council cemeteries manager Catherine Moore said the theft will be very upsetting for families.

"The removal of these plaques from the wall has meant those individuals' ash urns have been exposed, and we have moved these to an appropriate place to ensure they are respectfully stored until the plaques can be replaced."

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Auckland Council has asked anyone with any information on the thefts to contact the police.