Many New Zealand cities and towns are spartan, ugly and makeshift - designed with little regard to the natural world around them, urban designer Garth Falconer says.
He has spent eight years undertaking historical research to look at how our cities and towns were created. The result is his book "Living in Paradox - A History of Urban Design Across Kainga, Towns and Cities in New Zealand", which highlights the struggle to reconcile development with the country's climate, landscape and geology.
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Mr Falconer concludes there has been a reluctance to put serious effort into the planning and development of urban spaces.
"This lead to a fundamental disclocation between topography, landscape and urban form, resulting in a minimal, discontinous and eclectic landscape presence in the emerging urban environments."
Mr Falconer said Europeans came with ideas of how to design towns and cities based on what they already knew. This included the Protestant colonies of 16th century Northern Ireland and penal settlements of 18th century Australia.
But New Zealand's terrain, ecology and climate conspired to frustrate the end results.
The book's final chapter is devoted to our biggest city, Auckland, known for urban sprawl and traffic jams.
Mr Falconer said Auckland's biggest problem was not traffic but social division. It had become a city of two halves, divided by the woeful state of social housing, poor lending policies and too much low-rise detached housing.
"It is time to undertand what the New Zealand city is and to design and live in it with ease. This will involve recognising and developing a strong network of small towns, vibrant regional centres and outstanding metropolitan cities.
"We need engaged and design-literate communities, a shared high-quality environment and a strongly inclusive public realm."
See more images from Living in Paradox.
Garth Falconer talks to Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon about his book.