A comprehensive study of the morphological, optical and microstructural properties of mass-transport (MT) and conventionally grown GaN by hydride vapour-phase epitaxy is presented. Spatially resolved techniques have been utilized to reveal in a comparative way, the characteristics of the material grown either in predominant vertical or lateral growth modes. A strong donor-acceptor pair (DAP) emission is observed from the MT regions with a distinctive intensity contrast between the exciton and DAP emission bands from MT and nontransport regions. Secondary ion mass spectroscopy and imaging were employed to investigate the impurity incorporation into different regions. An increase of residual oxygen and aluminium impurity concentrations was found in the MT areas. In addition, positron annihilation spectroscopy showed a strong signal of Ga vacancy clusters in the MT grown material. The increase of the point defect concentrations of both Ga vacancy and oxygen impurity, most likely forming defect complexes, is related to the enhancement of the DAP emission.