Whangarei District Council has held a ceremony to mark the return of smashed headstones to a cemetery it bulldozed 50 years ago.
About 1100 people were buried in the old pioneer cemetery on the corner of State Highway 1 and Kioreroa Road between 1880 and 1940.
In the 1960s, the council demolished the cemetery with Parliament's approval, claiming that the site was too wet and hard to maintain.
Whangarei cemetery manager Helen Cairns says people were upset last year when council contractors found headstone fragments in the Onerahi seawall where they had been used as fill.
She says there were some complaints at the time the cemetery was demolished, but no-one really knew what happened to the stones and they were used at several work sites around the district.
Mrs Cairns says such destruction could never happen today, because communities and councils set a much higher value on their history.
She says the council needed a resource consent to rebuild the seawall, and permission from the Historic Places Trust to move the stone fragments because they are historical artefacts.
The pieces of headstone have been blessed and returned to the old Kioreroa cemetery to form part of a new council memorial.