# 3 Waikato Expressway

The Waikato Expressway is the case study of this report for evaluating the cost of delays in decision-making. In this section, we provide a description of the Expressway and its impact on the economy.

## 3.1 40 years of planning

The discussions around improving mobility between the Auckland and Waikato regions date back to 1970s, when the initial suggestions were made regarding extensions to State Highway 1. This idea evolved until early 2000s and led to the idea of the Waikato Expressway. While there is always a level of uncertainty involved and further planning is required to address that, there is a large gap of almost 40 years between the initiation of the idea and start of the project in 2009.14 This phase included both the project initiation and the planning phases.

The primary objective of the Expressway, as highlighted in the National State Highway Strategy (NSHS), is to provide high levels of service for long-distance through-traffic travelling between Auckland, the Waikato, the Bay of Plenty and further south.

While the Waikato Expressway was not officially designated as such until the early 2000s, the upgrading of State Highway 1 (SH 1) from the Bombay Hills to Mercer from 1992 to 1993 can be considered the first step in the construction of the expressway. This upgraded the SH 1 from the end of the Southern Motorway to just north of Mercer from two lanes to four. Also, the Pōkeno bypass was constructed around this time, in addition to separated interchanges to allow access for local property owners along the route. This is interesting because it provides a useful example of how adaptive decision-making could add value by providing flexibility for future decisions, and also provide immediate value to communities from smaller developments. This relates to our discussions in Section 2.1 about the importance of adaptive decision-making.

Figure 6 shows the timeframe of different phases of the Expressway. The last phase between Lake Road interchange and Tamahere was under construction until recently and opened to traffic on 14th July 2022. Details on the location and length of different phases of the Expressway are shown in Figure 6.

##### Figure 6 The timeframe for different phases of the Expressway Timeframe: 2010–2022, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Authority estimated construction costs

Source: Beehive, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Authority

Note: Estimated project costs shown in Figure 6 are for construction only. Target completion dates are sourced from a snapshot of the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Authority website as of 2 June, 2010. Construction dates and costings have been sourced from Beehive and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Authority media releases and project overviews. We combined construction costs and timings for Longswamp and Rangiriri to maintain consistency with past reporting of Waikato Expressway sections.

##### Figure 7 Waikato expressway sections as defined in March 2010

Source: Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Authority (2010)

## 3.2 Previous studies of the impact of the Expressway

Some studies have investigated the direct and indirect impacts of the Expressway.

Parker et al. (2008) completed a strategic evaluation of the Waikato Expressway, providing estimates of the direct impacts of the Expressway. That report investigated the importance of the Expressway to the New Zealand economy, although the authors noted that they did not consider the (indirect) wider economic impacts. We will provide a description of the direct impacts captured by Parker et al. (2008) in the next section.

Infometrics (2009, 2010) provided an economic impact assessment of the roads of national significance (RoNS), including the Waikato Expressway, the Auckland Western Ring Route, Tauranga’s Eastern Link, the Puhoi to Wellsford Motorway, the Victoria Park Tunnel, the Christchurch By-pass, and Wellington to Foxton at a national level. The reports capture the efficiency gains and corresponding capital accumulation from the RoNS investments. The results suggest that the $2.65 billion investment in RoNS (SAHA, 2010, p. 42) raised annual GDP by$1.4 billion (expressed in 2008 prices).

The findings of Infometrics’ (2010) economic impact analysis of the Expressway are shown in Table 1. The wider economic benefit of the Expressway was equivalent $385 million in 2020. Richard Paling Consulting (2010) estimated the employment impacts of the RoNS and the Expressway, based on the agglomeration impacts (that is, the productivity effects).15 Their results suggested that the Expressway led to the creation of 800 new jobs and the RoNS created 2,600 new jobs. ##### Table 1 Comparison between Parker et al.’s HCV forecast and actual growth Compared to the Do-Minimum scenario Unit: % change compared to the Do-Nothing scenario; dollar values expressed in million dollars – 2008 prices. Impact on Impact in 2020 (% change) Impact in 2020 ($ value)
Consumption 0.14 $254 Exports 0.17$121
Imports 0.09 $74 GDP 0.17$385

### 3.3.3 Tourism

The Expressway facilitates the access of international tourists between Auckland, Taupo and Rotorua. Also, the Expressway improves access for the domestic tourism between Auckland and the ‘golden triangle’, which comprises Coromandel, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.