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Time-resolved cathodoluminescence at 27 K has been performed on a-plane GaN grown by epitaxial lateral overgrowth. We detail the relaxation and recombination mechanisms of excitons [free or bound to neutral donors, or bound to I1-type basal stacking faults (BSFs)] in relation to the local density in BSFs. We describe the slow exciton capture rate on isolated BSFs by a diffusion model involving donors via a hopping process. Where BSFs are organized into bundles, we relate the shorter rise time to intra-BSF localization processes and the multiexponential decay to the type-II band alignment of BSFs in wurtzite GaN.