Broken headstones, shattered plaques and smashed vases of flowers and pot plants lovingly placed by family members litter a cemetery in northern Hawke's Bay after a vandalism spree, and may take years to repair.

About a fifth of the headstones at a family urupā in Raupunga have been destroyed in what family members believe was a deliberate attack with a sledgehammer by a disgruntled relative.

The heartbroken families are now focusing on cleaning up the cemetery and eventually repairing all the broken headstones which they spent the weekend piecing back together like jigsaw pieces.

Kaye Wesley stopped in at the cemetery at 9am on Saturday morning as she travelled from Napier to Wairoa for a cousin's tangi.


Her son had been feeling carsick so they decided to stop at her brother Lou Wesley's grave on the way there instead of on the return journey.

"As I walked through the gate I saw a few broken vases and I thought must have been bad wind, broke all the vases and it wasn't until I actually looked all around and I saw the destruction and I just started crying and screaming out to my boy to bring my phone. I was just absolutely devastated."

She was heartbroken when she found her brother's headstones smashed in two and broke down sobbing. He had died in a car crash six years ago and Wesley said they had only had the unveiling in October 2013.

"We all had to scrape the money together [for the headstone]. It's sad, It's such a lot of damage - it's heart-wrenching."

Wesley estimated the cost of replacing each headstone was between $5000 and $10,000.

"We are looking at at least $100,000 all up [to replace the headstones]."

"The plan is we are just going to get one undertaker to go there and tell us how much to fix every single one. We are not going to leave it to each family, we are just going to do it as a whole ...

"We will find [the money]. We will fundraise - if it takes years then that be it, but we will do it."


Wesley believed she knew who had carried out the attack.

''Headstones can be fixed, but it's what has happened behind it that is the hard thing. It's just heartbreaking. It's like burying them again."

Family members and the community spent Saturday trying to clean up the mess at the family plot . "They spent the whole day piecing every piece back together like a jigsaw puzzle."

Her video showing the damage at the cemetery has gone viral since being posted on Facebook on Saturday morning and has been shared more than 8000 times with people expressing their outrage over the act.

"I can't even watch it now. I just cry every time I watch it now."

There were also plans to set up a Givealittle page to raise money to replace the headstones.

A police media spokesperson confirmed they had received a report on Saturday about the damage to some of the headstones at the urupā and believed the vandalism happened between 6pm Friday and 10.30am on Saturday morning.

There was no further update available on Sunday about whether anyone had been charged.