Property developers failed to take part in this year's assessment of Palmerston North's creativity, which revealed a city too comfortable for its own good.
Report author Charles Landry said it was the first time in his indexing of 17 cities around the world that it had happened, and he thought it was strange.
The international city planner found Palmerston North close to average - comfortable rather than captivating - and in danger of slipping into "imperceptible, yet gentle decline".
Mr Landry predicted its complacency could tip into a slow developing crisis.
"It is the frog-in-boiling- water threat. The problem could be addressed too late."
Mr Landry's key recommendations were about strategic leadership with a city coalition that included the business community.
"Palmerston North needs to think less like a town, and more like a city."
Mr Landry said his report on the city's creativity was missing an important element, with no property developers buying in. None answered questionnaires, attended meetings or accepted private invitations.
"Perhaps they have a perception that creativity is only about the arts, whereas in fact, they are the principal group that will benefit financially from the improvements in urban life that the creative approach to city-making implies."
City council urban design planner Geoff Wilkinson said council staff dealt regularly with property developers on other issues, and he could not explain their apparent lack of interest in creating a more interesting city.
"It might have been bad timing, or that they thought it was not relevant to them. But now, at least, we have a starting point."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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