Half a million more ratepayer dollars are likely to be invested in the Whakarewarewa Forest development.
On Thursday, Rotorua Lakes Council's Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee voted to recommend the council approve the funds, which would come from the council's $29 million Covid-19 economic recovery fund.
At the meeting, council strategy manager Jean-Paul Gaston said the forest was a "significant asset" for Rotorua as a tourist destination.
His presentation to the meeting stated yearly mountain bike movements at Waipa - one of the entrances to the forest - had risen by nearly 60,000 since 2018.
It also said up to $43m each year was spent on mountain biking in Rotorua, and 60 per cent of visitors to the forest were domestic.
Gaston said bike-related business was a "massive ecosystem" but the flow-on economic impact to accommodation, other retail and cafe businesses was "equally important".
The proposed investment would be to build infrastructure - a large covered deck area - at the newly-open Te Pūtake o Tawa forest hub on Tarawera Rd.
It would also go towards the "realignment" of the Lake Rotokakahi mountain bike track, which had included the currently closed Te Kotukutuku track. The new route would include an additional 4.8km to complete the forest loop.
The remaining money would fund other trails to be built by the Rotorua Trails Trust.
The forest development is a $14.5m project funded by the Provincial Growth Fund and the council, and was a collaboration with the Government, the council, Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao, Ngāti Whakaue and CNI Iwi Holdings.
Councillor Mercia Yates said it was "excellent to see it looking ambitious" and councillor Trevor Maxwell believed it was a "good investment".
However, councillor Raj Kumar said he would not support it.
"It's been a tough year, we are in the Covid-19 recovery phase. We have given to the forest hub in times of crisis.
"When it comes to another $500,000, while it may be good, I believe there are other aspects of Rotorua that could do with ratepayer funding."
Rotorua Rural Community Board chairwoman Shirley Trumper said the investment worked out at $17 per rateable property and was a "really great return on investment".
"We have to be ready and not worrying about trying to find money for something like this in a couple of years' time when we return to business as usual."
Councillor Tania Tapsell said the investment also had positive physical and mental health impacts for locals.
Councillor Peter Bentley said the council had spent "far too much" ratepayer money on projects "we will never see return on".
"We're not going to be able to get rent off it."
Councillor Reynold Macpherson also opposed the funding and said the council needed to adjust its investment strategy in light of Covid-19.
"We've continued with this predisposition to pour more money after previous investments in this mountain biking sector. That rate of investment cannot be sustained in perpetuity."
He suggested it was time for the council to take an austerity approach, and cut back on expenditure.
Te Tatau o Te Arawa representative Eugene Berryman-Kamp said it was a realisation and optimisation of "mana whenua, and what that actually means".
"I can't think of a place in the world where you can start your mountain bike experience with a decent coffee, have a hangi pie for lunch, end your day with a swim at Lake Tikitapu and potentially have the opportunity to be guided by the people of the land, on their land, telling their stories."
Chairwoman of the committee, councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said it was a "recovery project not a recovery lockdown".
The recommendation passed with Kumar, Bentley and Macpherson opposed, but will require final sign-off by the full council on November 26.
The committee also agreed on a recommendation to the council regarding the Tarawera community's wastewater reticulation scheme on Thursday.
It will involve the installation of low pressure grinder pumps on each property, and the connection of Tarawera to the Ōkareka wastewater pump and on to the Rotorua Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Benefiting ratepayers - currently 446 of them - will pay a lump sum of an estimated $33,000 for the scheme at its completion.
The scheme has a total current gross cost of $22.5m, $7.4m of which was covered by the Ministry for the Environment, the council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
The project, should it be approved by the council on November 26, is expected to begin in 2021 and be completed in 2024.
The committee also approved a recommendation to the council to revoke the reserve classification of the Pūruru Reserve - formerly the home of the Tārewa Tennis Club - and vest the land as a Māori reservation in Taharangi Marae trustees.
The land was gifted to the council in 1964 by late Ngāti Kearoa Ngāti Tūara senior kaumatua Pat Ruhi, but had fallen into disuse. Public consultation had been undertaken with all nine submissions in support of the reserve's return.
It was agreed to unanimously, with councillor Trevor Maxwell saying it was a "very good case where land was gifted in the first place".
"It's only right and just we return it to the original owners."