Opinion: At this time of the year Te Awamutu fully deserves its name "Rose Town".
Our civic and private gardens are swathes of colour. But look more closely at the buildings. They're usually painted grey.
The library is the largest and dullest of the newer buildings. Across the street the Events Centre is now almost all grey; even the curling exterior tube of the hydroslide, formerly a bright blue, is now reduced to boring charcoal.
The early 1930s Streamlined Art Deco Commercial Hotel has had its impressively detailed architectural features compromised by being painted just two tones of grey.
Like most new eateries the interior of the restaurant is painted black. Where did the idea that food can only be consumed amid Stygian gloom come from?
The colour consultant who saw to it that the formerly red Woolshed Theatre was painted dark grey last year didn't get the joke.
The original colour was an amusing reference to all those red woolsheds that dot the green paddocks of Waipā farms.
A complaint at this failure of imagination resulted in most of the grey remaining.
A diagonal slash of cream was applied to two walls and a single part of a street-facing 'shed' roof was permitted to be red, but the joke was lost forever.
Apparently, the consultant who chose the new sludge-like hue for the theatre looked at surrounding buildings and went for something similar.
This is called Contextualisation. The streets are grey; all the nearby buildings are grey; when the weather is cloudy everything is grey.
Are we such dreary people that we want or deserve this?
In parts of Finland in the far northern hemisphere people live for nearly three winter months each year in near darkness.
They must take precautions to avoid suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder which causes depression, lethargy, loss of appetite and insomnia.
One of the ways they brighten up their lives to is use colour. Lots of it.
You can see brightly painted apartment blocks everywhere. Reds and greens, blues and yellows, oranges and purples stand out from paler shades, forming the sharpest possible contrast.
This is not only cheering and enjoyable but has a demonstrably positive impact on people's moods. Colour is life-enhancing.
Yet here, if you go into any paint shops there are lines and lines of sample cards in the so-called fashionable 'neutrals'.
Shop assistants will explain that "That's what people want these days." No. It's just what is available.
There are small models of houses painted in light and dark grey, brown, charcoal and black but none using brighter colours for contrast.
Are we in fact scared of colour? Scared of daring to make a statement?
Look at the new housing developments from a distance. All you can see is acres of grey.
The New Zealand dream of the quarter acre section is a fiction now. If houses are to be built so close together do they all have to be painted the same drab colours?
There's a perfect example of what can be done with the clever use of colour close by.
Just pay a visit to the Jim Barker Memorial Park in Ōtorohanga. It's fun, uplifting and well planned. It's a riot of colour.
How many others are there in Te Awamutu who now cringe at the sight of painters' scaffolding going up on a building?
What can be done to rescue us from this New Drab?
Peter Shaw lives in Pirongia and has spent his life involved in architecture history and the arts. He has written on the subject, including the books New Zealand Architecture from Polynesian Beginnings to 1990 and A History of New Zealand Architecture, as well as being arts writer for Metro magazine for 18 years. He is also art curator of the Fletcher Trust art collection.