Extra funding totalling more than $4.85 million has been approved for four Tauranga City Council projects.
A ratepayers' group describes the additional funding as budget "blowouts" but the council says the costs are due to factors out of its control.
Council commissioners approved the money at a meeting on Tuesday.
Council staff sought extra funding for four projects: $2.72m for safer access to Omanawa Falls; $1.38m for a destination skatepark; $175,000 for mulching around trees (with an operational budget increase of $140,000 a year from 2024); and $575,000 for the Elizabeth St streetscape upgrade.
At the meeting, director of spaces and places Paul Dunphy asked for the extra money for the Omanawa Falls project "noting that we are still in the process of seeking additional funding from external funding partners".
Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley questioned why council staff were seeking full funding when only planning to use half of it.
Dunphy said staff needed certainty of funding to gain consent for the plans and "then we can have proper consultation with partners around what they can give us".
Commissioner Stephen Selwood asked what other options council staff had considered to help fund the project, such as charging commercial tourism operators or charging for access "rather than ratepayers losing out all of the time".
Dunphy said the team was working with Tourism Bay of Plenty and iwi and the focus was on delivering safe access around the falls.
"We are in the relatively early stages of what tourism options there may be there."
Dunphy asked for $1.38m in extra funding towards plans for a destination skatepark bringing the total budget to $2.05m.
"We feel we might have undercooked the money we needed to deliver a destination skatepark. If we want to do that, we need to put more money into it."
This too was planned with a 50/50 split of council and external funding in mind, he said.
Tolley then questioned what conversations had been had with the developers of the Farmers building in Devonport Rd "because it is their delays that are causing our ratepayers an extra half-million in possible costs".
"I understand Covid and the delays it's causing everywhere but actually, we are tying all of that to our ratepayers. It doesn't seem very fair to me," Tolley said.
"It's not just the costs, it's the disruption to traffic ... it really is very difficult for people."
Dunphy replied: "We are in these negotiation conversations at the moment."
"This project does feel like a project that is never going to end," he said.
Commissioners approved the extra funding, making a note regarding Omanawa Falls that the council would seek funding from potential tourism operators.
In a written statement released before the meeting began, Tauranga Ratepayers' Alliance spokeswoman Kim Williams said "budget blowouts" of this scale were "unacceptable".
In her view, ratepayers deserved better from the council.
She said rates went up 15 per cent last year and were projected to go up another 13 per cent this year.
In response, Tolley told the Bay of Plenty Times that, in her view, the comments showed a lack of understanding.
"The cost changes highlighted are not 'budget blowouts', but simply the effects of Covid-related delays, material shortages and under-capacity in our construction industry. All of those factors are outside of [the] council's control."
In the same response, Dunphy said the past two years had been challenging for construction projects nationwide and uncertain project delivery, driven by Covid-19, was expected for the foreseeable future.
"This has led to project delays which have caused many projects to exceed their contingency budgets."
The commissioners' approval to underwrite a $2.72m budget increase for the Omanawa Falls project which would be included in the draft Annual Plan.
This would be put out for community feedback in April, with decisions to be made at the end of June.
The original $4.5m budget for the Omanawa Falls project was set in 2018, which included $3.5m from the council and a $1m grant from the Tourism Infrastructure Fund.
The council and Ngāti Hangarau hapū applied for resource consent to establish a safe walking track at the falls which would lead to the edge of the waterfall.
Despite the falls being closed to the public for years, people regularly ignored this and attempt the risky climb down to the base of the falls.
In the past three years, two people have died and others have been seriously injured.
Ngāti Hangarau spokesman Koro Nicholas told the Bay of Plenty Times the original $4.52m budget was a conservative estimate only and it was earlier signalled that the final budget would be determined once the resource consent was granted.
Nicholas said many factors were behind the increase including rising inflation and construction materials costs, plus reinforcing the cliff face was more expensive.
"From Ngati Hangarau's perspective, I think the Omanawa Falls project will have great social, cultural and economic benefits for our city, especially for our tourism sector."
"This is also about creating a better understanding of why the falls and the surrounding area are wahi tapu [sacred] and of great cultural and spiritual significance to our hapū," Nicholas said.
"I'm sure once this work is finished it will become a major pulling point to attract visitors from far and wide and ultimately the project will have lots of economic benefits for our city and our region.
"It's all about creating a space that the whole community can tap into and benefit from."
Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Oscar Nathan was also approached for comment.