Developing a business case for transport investments and fulfilling environmental planning requirements both involve setting objectives and gathering evidence to build a case. Aligning these two processes will save time, cost and effort, reduce risk and result in a better-planned project.

This page provides guidance on why and how to do this, focusing on:

  • getting environmental planners involved earlier in the process
  • what to do in each of the five cases that make up a business case.
    Five-case model

Why align business cases and environmental planning?

Notices of requirement and other consents required by the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) are generally prepared and lodged during the pre-implementation phase of land transport project development, after the business case has been developed. This can lead to re-work later in the process if the business case has not considered the RMA framework (or equivalent once the RMA is replaced) and future consenting requirements.

Better alignment between these processes will bring benefits, including:

  • risks identified through the planning process can inform the business case and design work
  • considering how the objectives for the business case might be tailored at a later date to support a designation process will create more consistency and will be more efficient – one process shouldn’t undermine the other
  • business case evidence can better inform the planning process
  • better understanding of potential mitigation costs and consenting risk
  • having the input of environmental planners will lead to a more robust business case.

How to get better alignment

Get environmental planners involved earlier

Rather than wait until pre-implementation, get your organisation’s environmental planners involved in the business case early, and work collaboratively.

Strategic case – align your objectives

When developing your strategic case, it’s important to consider how your benefits map and investment objectives might support a future RMA process. Project objectives included in a notice of requirement to designate land are generally broader than business case investment objectives. Considering alignment between evidence, problems, benefits and finally objectives will result in the business case being best placed to support any RMA approvals process later down the track.

Strategic case
Developing investment objectives

Economic case – is your economic case sufficiently robust to inform the planning phase?

Your economic case should be progressively developed through the business case phases. When in the programme business case (PBC), indicative business case (IBC) or single-stage business case (SSBC) phases, ensure that the alternatives and option assessment is sufficiently robust to inform a later RMA approvals phase. Involving your organisation’s environmental planners in scoping and reviewing this work will help to reduce additional work if the project requires RMA approvals later in the process. Input from this team is also invaluable when:

  • agreeing assessment criteria and weightings
  • completing the evaluation of alternatives and options within the optioneering phase
  • completing the environmental screen.

Understanding and quantifying RMA approvals and potential mitigation risk may provide a significant difference between different options and should not be left until pre-implementation.

Economic case

Z/19 Taumata Taiao – Environmental and Sustainability Standard

Z/19 Taumata Taiao – Environmental and Sustainability Standard sets out the process and requirements to give effect to the NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi (NZTA) environmental and sustainability policies, other relevant strategic objectives, outcomes and legal requirements during the development and management of the land transport system. One of the key deliverables of this standard is the environmental screen. The environmental screen identifies whether a land transport option could have environmental and sustainability opportunities and sensitivities. This tool should be used to help:

  • identify environmental and sustainability opportunities and constraints
  • inform option selection
  • identify further technical assessments that may be required, and
  • support other project workstreams (such as consenting and public engagement).

Z/19 Taumata Taiao – environmental and sustainability standard
Environmental screen

The environmental screen informs the multi-criteria analysis (MCA) and option selection process during business case development, and can be applied at a programme level or project level.

Multi-criteria analysis

It must be completed in the indicative business case and finalised in the detailed business case/single-stage business case by a suitably qualified and experienced professional.

Approved organisations are encouraged to use the environmental screen to inform activities funded by the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF).

Commercial case – develop the consenting strategy in collaboration with your environmental planner

Your commercial case should also be progressively developed through the business case phases, with the most substantial work completed at the detailed business case (DBC) or SSBC phases. Work with your environmental planner to collaboratively develop the consenting strategy and consenting collateral throughout the business case phases rather than presenting them with a completed document for sign off at the end of the phase. This should include agreeing the required scope of work for any technical assessment needing procurement.

For NZTA projects, guidance on preparing a consenting strategy, and a consenting strategy template, is available by contacting

Commercial case
Detailed business case phase
Single-stage business case phase

Financial case – have the whole-of-life costs been accurately estimated?

The purpose of the financial case is to demonstrate affordability and fundability of the preferred option. Determining this requires a complete understanding of the capital, revenue and whole-of-life costs of the project and how they will impact the organisation. This includes the whole-of-life costs to implement RMA and other statutory approvals, mitigation and ongoing monitoring. Work with your environmental planner to ensure these are not only considered when developing and assessing options but also the financial case to ensure there is available funding for the lifetime of the project.

Financial case

Management case – has risk been accurately understood and accounted for? When is the appropriate time to proceed with preparing and lodging consents?

The purpose of the management case is to demonstrate that robust arrangements are in place for the delivery, monitoring and evaluation of the preferred option. This requires understanding the risks in the design, build, funding and operational phases of the project and how to best mitigate them.

This includes:

  • understanding the consenting risk, any potential mitigation (or offsetting or compensation requirements) and how ongoing monitoring requirements will be managed in the future
  • planning for the next phase – work with your environmental planner to determine when is best to prepare and lodge consents – this will be a consideration in development of the consenting strategy.

For high-priority, fast-moving projects it may be appropriate to prepare consent documents in parallel with the DBC and lodge them at pre-implementation phase. For other projects it may be more appropriate to seek a route protection designation or to not progress RMA approvals until closer to the planned implementation date. Engaging early with the environmental planning team will best inform these decisions.

Management case

Resources and further information


Need support?

Talk to the environmental planning team in your organisation. You can also contact your NZTA investment advisor or email the Business Case Process team at