Two teenagers have been arrested following a rampage in a Nelson cemetery that left a number of graves vandalised and damaged.

Many families were left distraught after discovering their loved ones' headstones had been knocked over, broken, and decorations strewn over the ground at Richmond Cemetery last weekend.

Two teens have since been apprehended by police in relation to the damage caused on the evenings of August 31 and September 2, Senior Sergeant Shane Miles of Nelson Police confirmed.

"The investigation is ongoing and those [allegedly] involved will be held to account through the youth justice process," he said.

The damage done was "repugnant", Miles said, and was "distressing for our community, particularly those with loved ones in the cemetery".

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Sarah Carroll said she was "really angry and even more upset" when she heard of the destruction.

"We had only just buried Mum. She had a really short battle with cancer, of about five weeks from when she was diagnosed, so it was really hard for the family," she said.

"She was only just in the ground pretty much and then somebody went and did that.

"The temporary cross was kicked out of the ground and broken, and the flowers that were on her grave were kicked around. It was a mess."

Damaged graves at Richmond Cemetery in Nelson.
Damaged graves at Richmond Cemetery in Nelson.

Templer Shutkowski was also angry to learn her father's grave had been defaced.

"I was really angry because my Dad hasn't even been gone a year yet, and it was right before Father's Day so it was my first Father's Day without him," she said.

"We had some pots smashed around, but it's more about the fact that someone could even do that."

Shutkowski hopes the offenders "realise what they have done and the devastation they have caused to other people".

"People have had to relive their loved ones being gone all over again."

Between 60-70 headstones were damaged at Richmond Cemetery on the weekend.
Between 60-70 headstones were damaged at Richmond Cemetery on the weekend.

Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne sent his apologies to the families involved.

"It's just an awful thing to have happened," he said.

"It's very upsetting for a lot of people and has caused a lot of anxiety."

The council has done all it can to repair the damage quickly and place additional security measures at the cemetery, he said.

Tasman District Council's community development manager, Susan Edwards, said between 60 to 70 headstones were damaged over the two nights.

"Council has arranged for the headstones which have been knocked over but are otherwise intact to be stood up and re-cemented in place," she said. "Council - which means the ratepayers - will pay for the cost of this work.

"The monumental masons have completed this work for council.

"Other headstones have been damaged and can't just be stood up and re-cemented in. The monumental masons are contacting the families of the deceased person whose headstone has been damaged.

"The families own the headstones and will, therefore, need to decide what they will do with them and whether they are repaired. The families will also have to pay the cost of the repairs."

A few "very old" headstones were also damaged, Edwards said, and council would work with the monumental masons to decide what to do with these headstones.