Watch: 'I just started crying' – Family devastated after disgusting Hawke's Bay cemetery attack leaves headstones smashed

Families and friends have been left grieving after a northern Hawke's Bay cemetery was vandalised - and the damages may take years to repair.

Around one fifth of the headstones at a family urupa in Raupunga have been destroyed by a sledgehammer.

The heartbroken loved ones and the local community are now working to clean up the cemetery and repair the destroyed headstones.

Kaye Wesley told 1 NEWS she was "just absolutely devastated" after she stopped by the cemetery at 9am yesterday while travelling to Wairoa for a cousin's tangi.

"Your wairua [spirit] is just gone. It’s like we’ve got to bury them again.

"I can't understand the mental state of a person [who’d do it] , urupa are tapu," Ms Wesley said.

Kaye Wesley said her brother's grave was one of the 16 smashed, but every second burial site had some form of damage such as broken flower vases.

"By the time I got to his grave I was a mess. I just started crying."

The decision was made to make the video public – after only being posted on a family Facebook page – because of large numbers of relations living in Australia.

Her own extended Waihape whanau had decided to get a quote to fix all of the headstones together.

"We can’t fix ours and not anyone else's."

She said the whanau had been overwhelmed with support, including a group setting up a Give a Little page to help pay for the damage.

There are plans to set up a Givealittle page to raise the funds to replace the headstones.