About the Project

Sustainable Pathways 2 (SP2) is about integrating state-of-the-art research with policy to enable better decisions in Spatial Planning.

The research toolkit provides unique tools (along a continuum as below) for integrated resource management. This is a key function of regional councils under the Resource Management Act. The Integrated Scenario Explorer links land use change to economic and demographic drivers and simulates scenarios for future developments. This allows the consequences of policy options and evaluation of trade-offs to be more robustly and transparently debated. As well as being useful tools in their own right, Systems Thinking, Mediated Modelling and Systems Dynamics all contribute to understanding and help non-systems people understand the outputs. 

Integrated decision support toolkit

What the project addresses

SP2 addresses long-term integrated planning and resource management issues characterised by:

  • Multi-scale
  • Spatially explicit
  • Multiple actors, values, views and possible outcomes
  • High uncertainty
  • Adaptive management: continuous response to change and improvement
  • Integration of four aspects of well-beings

What the project applies

  • Systems thinking:  Identifies linkages, feedbacks and (unintended) consequences
  • Action research

The output

The output will be an integrative (economic, social, environmental) scenario modelling capacity  in New Zealand to enable planners and communities to more fully appreciate options for the future of their cities and regions.


SP2, funded by the Ministry of Business Employment and Innovation, has been contracted to Ecological Economics Research New Zealand (EERNZ).

Key partners are Market Economics Ltd (MEL), Research Institute for Knowledge Systems (RIKS), Waikato Regional Council (WRC), Auckland Council (AC) and Greater Wellington (GW).

This $4m research programme builds on our previous FRST programme  ‘Sustainable Pathways' and the EW led FRST programme 'Creating Futures'. There are three parallel research streams:

  1. Mediated Modelling (led by EERNZ)
  2. Spatial Dynamic Modelling (led by MEL)
  3. Developing and Integrating  Dynamic and Spatial Modelling tools into Urban Planning Practice (led by WRC)

Mediated modelling

Mediated modelling (MM) works with stakeholder groups to combines the best of ‘participatory and consensus based approaches to decision-making’ with the best of ‘dynamic systems modelling’. Led by Associate Professor van den Belt this research scopes to ensure the research models and management models closely align with end-users needs.

Spatial dynamic modelling

The spatial dynamic modelling stream of research provides a spatial decision support system for Auckland and Wellington urban areas. This will bring together existing models such as population demographics, economics, labour, transport, land use, energy and environmental (energy, water etc) so that the various impacts on land use change are considered interactively.

Developing and Integrating Dynamic and Spatial Modelling tools into Urban Planning Practice

This is Council-led research to ensure scenario modelling is embedding into urban planning practice and urban planners can translate future visions for their regions into strategic long-term plans, using these new modelling tools.

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