A game changer

Regardless of any agreements made by global leaders in Paris this year, the world will be impacted by changes in the climate.

In New Zealand, local and central government are getting a chance to experience plausible climate change scenarios using a simulation game designed to challenge their policy choices.

Sustainable Delta Game, first developed at Deltares, an applied research institute in the Netherlands, has been tailored for a New Zealand setting in a project led by Judy Lawrence from Victoria’s New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute, in collaboration with Dr Marjolijn Haasnoot at Deltares.

“We’ve included New Zealand precipitation, drought and sea level rise scenarios. We’ve also styled it visually to reflect our landscape and redesigned the policy responses so they are consistent with our institutional settings,” says Judy.

In the game, users experience making decisions under conditions of uncertainty and change by developing management plans for river catchments or coastal areas. They then watch what happens over the next 100 years, implementing actions based on environmental, economic and social changes that are signalled and feedback on the effectiveness and costs of their decisions.

“A key factor in this game is unpredictability. Although we know that sea levels are rising and flood and storm frequency and intensity are changing, we do not know with certainty by how much, the rate of change and its magnitude,” says Judy.

“We are finding that users change their behaviour during the game to make decisions that have more built-in flexibility so they are better prepared to adapt to changes as they occur in the future.”

Developed with additional funding from Greater Wellington Regional Council, Wellington City Council, Tasman District Council and the Ministry for the Environment, the game has already been used for long-term decision-making for flood management in the Hutt Valley and will soon be available for use around the country.