NZ Village in Uproar Over Celine Dion 'Sound Clashes'

Exploring the Unique Nighttime Phenomenon in Auckland's Streets.

by Nouman Rasool
NZ Village in Uproar Over Celine Dion 'Sound Clashes'
© Kevin Winter/GettyImages

Celine Dion, an artist celebrated worldwide, with a vast array of fans and numerous accolades for iconic songs such as "Think Twice" and "My Heart Will Go On," has recently become the center of a controversial craze in a New Zealand town.

The residents of Porirua are expressing their exasperation as local car enthusiasts have taken up the trend of blasting Dion’s ballads at full volume during the wee hours of 2 a.m., prompting the community to initiate a petition in hopes of bringing the disruptive noise to a halt.

These gatherings, referred to as "siren battles," involve groups congregating with their cars, from which they play music through sirens typically reserved for emergency warnings. The objective is to achieve the loudest and clearest sound possible.

Dion’s music, characterized by its powerful emotional resonance and high treble, has emerged as a preferred choice for participants, with her Academy Award-winning hit "My Heart Will Go On" from the 1997 blockbuster "Titanic" frequently making the playlist, according to reports from NZ website The SpinOff.

Inside Auckland's Siren Battles

Paul Lesoa, a founding member of an Auckland siren battle group, shared insights with The SpinOff, emphasizing the group's preference for music that boasts high treble and clarity, with minimal bass.

The cars participating in these nocturnal competitions are typically outfitted with anywhere from seven to ten sirens. Preparations for the events are extensive, often spanning weeks as participants acquire sirens online, and meticulously solder speakers and amplifiers onto frames attached to their cars.

Lesoa expressed his perspective, stating that the public’s negative perception of siren battles is unwarranted. He highlighted the group's love for music and dancing, and posited that their activities are a preferable alternative to nightclubbing or bar-hopping in the city, which could potentially lead to altercations.

Lesoa disclosed that he has reached out to the Auckland Council to secure a permit for their activities, but is still awaiting a response. He acknowledged the disruptive nature of their hobby, but expressed the group's desire for a designated, safe space away from the public where they can engage in their passion without causing disturbance.

Wes Gaarkeuken, initiator of the petition to put an end to the siren battles in Porirua, has rallied hundreds to his cause, urging the Porirua City Council to take decisive action. The petitioners, tired of what they perceive as the council and mayor’s lackadaisical response, are calling for an immediate halt to the disruptive all-night music sessions.

Supporters of the petition have voiced their grievances, with Stephen Lewis emphasizing the importance of sleep as a fundamental human right, and Diana Paris sharing her personal experience of the disturbance caused by the sporadic and loud music, despite her appreciation for Dion's work.

In the past, an agreement had been reached between the Porirua City Council and the siren battle participants, relocating their activities to industrial areas and setting a curfew of 10 p.m. However, the siren battles have since returned to the town, leading to renewed frustration.

Mayor Anne Barker expressed her exasperation to Radio New Zealand, advocating for a solution that would confine the siren battles to areas where they would not disturb the entire community. Police reports indicate that between early February and early October of this year, up to 40 incidents related to the siren battles have been filed.

This ongoing saga unfolds as Celine Dion herself faces personal challenges, having recently canceled all scheduled shows for 2023 and 2024 due to a rare neurological disorder, leaving fans wishing her strength and recovery.

Celine Dion