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Siren kings: New Zealand city plagued by Céline Dion ‘speaker battles’

A small city in New Zealand plagued by “siren battles” – cars decked out in loudspeakers commonly used in emergency warning systems and often blaring Céline Dion hits – is calling on authorities to step in and end the noise.

The battles are part of a New Zealand subculture where music enthusiasts cover their cars in up to dozens of industrial speakers, loudhailers and sirens, then compete to have the loudest and clearest sounds.

The mayor of Porirua, Anita Baker, said residents are being kept up at night by cars that cruise around the streets or set up in parking lots in speaker competitions.

“We need to find somewhere alternative for these people to go or they need to stop,” said Baker.

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Music by Céline Dion is a popular choice for siren battles, which originated in south Auckland’s Pasifika population. While the events draw plenty of noise complaints, siren battles have also cultivated community. A report in local media outlet The Spinoff quoted the member of one siren group explaining Dion’s music was popular because it is clear, with high treble and not much bass. But, Baker says the “siren kings” of Porirua are terrorising residents with unwelcome takes on Dion’s classics.

“They play half a song and tweak it on their things and make a screeching noise so it is not like you’re even listening to good music,” said Baker, who is supportive of considerate siren kings. “I don’t mean to be awful but it’s not even a complete song.”

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A petition asking for local council to intervene, launched earlier this month, has gathered hundreds of signatures. Dozens of residents have also complained to Baker, including some who are considering moving away from the city if the problem continues.

Previously in Porirua, there had been a truce with organised siren battles heading to industrial areas away from homes and finishing by 10pm, the mayor said. However in the last year, many battles have taken place in the city centre and in residential areas “blasting music and emergency siren noises at all hours of the night,” according to the petition seeking the council address the issue.

Baker said the geography of Porirua, near Wellington, exacerbates the problem.

“It’s vibrating all over the city wherever they do it because we’re in a basin. It’s really frustrating.”

Police have received reports of about40 incidents relating to siren battles between February and October this year, according to a report in RNZ. A police spokesperson said authorities were seeking to identify individuals who have stolen speakers and district police teams have been notified of the resurgence of siren battles in Porirua. Baker is working with police, regional and local council authorities to crack down on the problem.

“I’m sick of the disturbing of the peace that sometimes goes on for hours,” wrote Diana Paris, on the petition’s account.

“Although I enjoy listening to Céline Dion in the comfort of my lounge and at my volume, I do not enjoy listening to fragments of it stopping and starting anytime between 7pm and 2am.”

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