The Auckland Council says it had to clear children's graves in one of its cemeteries because excessive decorations were making the area cluttered and unsafe.
The council is apologising to families after contractors cleared mementoes from Waikumete Cemetery while doing maintenance work.
It is the second time in six months that a cemetery in Auckland has been damaged by contractors.
The council says work began on Saturday to clear away decorations cluttering the children's area at Waikumete Cemetery, but not all family members were notified.
Acting manager of parks Mace Ward admits the council could have done a lot better in communicating with the families and has apologised.
"We could have a lot better in terms of talking to the people about how we went about that. I'm disappointed at the way things have transpired that we haven't treated our customers and the people who have loved-ones buried here as we would expect to be treated."
Mr Ward told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme there was an attempt to people know - through signs and publicity - that the graves were being cleared.
"That had become very cluttered and unsafe in some cases, also making it difficult to keep the area maintained and looking as you would expect in a cemetery."
Mr Ward says the council is trying to contact the families of all the children buried there and maintenance work has been halted until this has happened.