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Business case approach to project development

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency uses a Business Case Approach as the basis for activity and programme development for investment from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF). Information and guidance on business case principles that is specific to highways related projects can be found in this section. For business case principles information that is more relevant to non-state highway led activities, see the Business Case Approach guidance page. 

Business Case Approach guidance

The Business Case Approach supports planning and investing for outcomes, ensures early collaboration between stakeholders and the development of a robust, evidence based investment case. It is a principles-based approach that clearly links our strategy to outcomes, and defines problems and their consequences thoroughly before solutions are considered. This principles-based approach ensures a shared view of problems and benefits early in the transport planning process without requiring that the work has to be done in a particular way.

A key aspect of the Business Case Approach is that a case for investment is built progressively with decision points along the way that determine whether the investment is worthwhile in relation to the desired outcome. And at every step of the way, there’s a strong connection between strategy and outcomes. Which phases are used for each project is determined by the complexity of investment and should always be fit for purpose. 

The key points and phases of the Business Case Approach [PDF, 49 KB]

Summary diagram of the process and supporting tools [PDF, 125 KB]

To help with learning the business case process, Waka Kotahi has created a set of Business Case Approach learning modules. These modules are designed to provide consistency in approach, language and application of the business case approach.

Waka Kotahi staff can access these modules through Puna Koi. Waka Kotahi customers can access the modules by sending an email to with your name, email address, title and Waka Kotahi contact name.

Puna Koi(external link)

The benefits of our Business Case Approach

The key benefits are:

  • Increased effectiveness of investment resulting in an increase of outcomes and benefits – more bang for our buck
  • Increased efficiency of processes and reduction in churn – quicker for less cost
  • Greater clarity of evidence-based decision making on investment – evidence to back up decisions
  • Planning and investment optimised across the whole network – getting the most out of the whole network

These benefits arise through:

  • More clarity – identifies desired outcomes; sets investment objectives; sets measures at outset to monitor benefits
  • Greater efficiency – reduced churn throughout process; all stakeholders agree to scope at the outset; the right options are appraised
  • Reduced risk – greater assurance at project stages
  • Improved stakeholder engagement – provides a basis for meaningful, upfront conversations; early agreement on outcomes
  • Strategy led – speeds up the planning process; improves basis for decision-making; connects strategy to shovel

Status of advice

The Waka Kotahi Planning and Investment Knowledge Base sets out the planning and operational policy and processes for developing and implementing the NLTP, to give effect to the Government Policy Statement (GPS). The Knowledge Base includes advice to the transport sector on applying the Agency’s Business Case Approach.

Planning and Investment Knowledge Base

The guidance, tools and templates contained on the Highways Information Portal have been developed by Waka Kotahi to be specific to the requirements of developing state highway investment proposals and are aligned to the Planning and Investment Knowledge Base guidance.

For further information contact

Policy, standards and guidelines development and ratification processes

Purpose statement

Transport Services is applying a work planning process across the sector to ensure that the programme of development of operational policies and standards meets the needs of our customers, properly targets the priorities for improvement or replacement and maintains the quality of the sector intellectual property assets.


The goal of Transport Services in this is to use an agreed process to recommend to the sector work plans that include a programme of implementation of new or changed policies and standards, or the archiving and replacement of outdated policies and standards. The aim of the work planning is to give better recognition to our sector users’ and customers’ needs, by better targeting of priorities and resources and to result in outcomes that will:

  • Provide better opportunities for all sector users and customers to address needs;
  • Deliver what is needed at the right time;
  • Aim to fill the gaps in current sector policies and standards in order of customer need and delivering the biggest wins first;
  • Look to build in innovation and technology change;
  • Be fit for purpose across the wider industry; and
  • Be clear on what is wanted and who needs to be engaged in the process.

Ratification process

Delegation BR141 requires the Senior Manager Operational Policy, Planning and Performance to ratify changes to the policies and standards. A revised process was developed to execute this delegation in the new organisation with its new strategic approach, and the new practices, roles and accountabilities of the new operating model.

While the delegation is for internal change, with the changes to the performance metrics for the Waka Kotahi, Transport Services needs to look at the expansion of its standards development process across other roads and agencies and ensure they encompass broader definitions of value for money and customer levels of service. This will involve the inclusion of the Research and Guidelines Steering Group of the Road Controlling Authorities Forum in the process.

The reason for ratification is to ensure that the policy we register meets our value for money requirements. The corollary is that all documents on the register have been ratified and no document should be referenced in our works unless it is on our register. The current task is to tidy up the register to be fit for purpose. The mandate for doing this is to ensure that our works are done properly to the correct standards. The aim of this work to improve these processes is to ensure in future that only policies and standards that have been ratified are used in guiding our outputs.

The steps of the process are as set out in the Standards and Guidelines Development Process with the further clarification in the descriptions of the steps as detailed behind. The suggested outline is a business case process and the first two steps are the scope development to fuel the business case and right size what we plan to do. We need to be clear about the starting gates for the process. The projects to apply resources to should be established in our business plan and our business plan appropriate to the things we do.

Standards and Guidelines Development Process [DOCX, 60 KB]

There is a need to target the correct scale of the process to the scale of the proposed change(s) so that the requirements must be a fit for purpose approach. Trivial changes, such as purely administrative changes or changes to product lists from manufacturers who come or go in the market, must not go through an unnecessarily significant process. Where we want to apply resources is to substantive items.

For further information talk to the Lead Adviser or Practice Manager for your technical discipline.

Technical Advice Notes (TAN) process

One of the purposes that TANs are being used for is to apply technical changes ahead of a standard or guideline update. Often these changes are made under urgency and the level of analysis being applied at the time needs to exhibit the same degree of care applied to standards development so that these changes are affordable and continue to deliver value for money.

Despite the need at times to abbreviate the process there still needs to be an appropriate level of rigour applied, but again to an appropriate scale of effort based on the significance of likely impacts. It is agreed to apply a process to ensure that this happens and initially the Interim TAN Proposed Development Process is to be used for this.

Interim TAN Proposed Development Process [DOCX, 58 KB]

Guidance was requested as to what level of significance might be applied to decide the level of rigour required for approval of a TAN. An interim guideline in the form of a decision tree has been developed to provide some assistance. Your feedback is needed to help develop further guidance to better establish the parameters for making these decisions.

Interim guideline in the form of a decision tree [DOCX, 118 KB]

For further information talk to the Lead Adviser or Practice Manager for your technical discipline.

Please send your feedback on any of these processes to