Car drivers armed with a playlist of Celine Dion songs have been plaguing residents of a small New Zealand city for months on end with loud, late-night “siren battles.”
The beloved Canadian singer’s melodies lose their charm when blared at high volume as late as 2 a.m., say the sleepless residents of Porirua, north of Wellington and home to 60,000 people.
“It’s a headache,” Porirua Mayor Anita Baker said last week.
Siren battles have erupted in parts of New Zealand for at least seven years.
Local media have reported on contestants – often people with family links to Pacific Island nations – using large siren-type speakers on cars and even bicycles to drown each other out with their powerful systems.
They “love Celine Dion”, the mayor said. “They like anyone with a high pitch and great tone in their voice.”
In Porirua, people have had enough of hearing the power ballads, including “My Heart Will Go On” and “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now.”
The contests start as early as 7 p.m. and can go on until as late as 2 a.m., the mayor said.
“It’s really loud music. They only play a quarter of the song, so it’s like having a turntable and it comes screeching out.”
Competing cars park with their engines running, blasting out music before moving to avoid police, Baker said.
“It’s happening down in our city center, which is like a basin, so the noise just goes out like a drum to all the suburbs,” she said.
“People are just not getting any sleep, because it’s all hours.”
Nearly 300 disgruntled residents have so far signed a petition on the website change.org demanding Porirua City Council put a stop to it.
“There is a petition coming my way, but I have already had lots of emails and complaints through,” Baker said.
One resident, Diana Paris, wrote on the petition she was “sick” of the noise.
“Although I enjoy Celine Dion in the comfort of my lounge and at my volume, I do not enjoy hearing fragments of it stopping and starting at any time between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m.,” she said.
Baker said the late-night music sessions started in November 2022 during the Rugby League World Cup when local fans celebrated Samoa’s run to the final.
“We had a parade down here and they have just continued on,” she said. “Summer is starting and they are back.”
There are no set nights when the high-decibel music will start up, Baker said.
“It’s absolutely random now and it can be any day of the week,” she said.
Baker has attended organized siren battles.
“I can see why they like them, they are a bit of fun,” she said. “There were families watching and it finished at 10 p.m., not one or two in the morning when people need to sleep.”
The mayor said she would meet with police to find a resolution.
“We don’t want people leaving the city because of the noise,” Baker said. “That’s unacceptable.”