If you are involved in conservation in the Adelaide Hills, you might have heard about something called the 'Central Hills Green Web' - but you could be forgiven for not knowing exactly what the Green Web is, or what it does.

Perhaps the simplest explanation is that the Green Web is an umbrella body for the various environmental volunteer groups operating in the old Stirling Council area - certainly that is what is has evolved into - but the story is actually a bit more complicated than that.

The Green Web started its life as a project management team. In 2004, several environmental groups got together to apply for a major grant - too big for any of them to handle on their own - and drew in the support of the Adelaide Hills Council and the forerunner of the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board (AMLR NRM Board).

The idea was that - instead of various community groups applying for many small grants for environmental projects - we would apply together for one big grant which could be used across the whole district. That big grant would be used to link up properties with good bushland into a conservation network (a 'web') with the money being directed to wherever in the web it would do the most good.

On winning the grant, the first thing we did was develop a system for deciding how it should be spent. This involved dabbling in some quite complex science, but in the end the committee came up with a 'score sheet' system, which rated properties according to their biodiversity value and their links to other conservation sites. Who owned the land was not important - public or private - so long as the owner was prepared to do their bit.

The process of getting the Green Web up and going was largely the work of three exceptional people - Glenn Williams, Michael Garrod and Mark Fagan - and it is high time they were given credit. It was a time of enormous institutional change, but they (and others) managed to stay focussed on the thing that mattered most - making sure that biodiversity funding, no matter where it came from, delivered the maximum possible benefit on the ground.

It sounded like a good idea at the time - and it still does. Nearly $1 million dollars and almost 10 years later, we are still doing it. The funding process changed several times before settling down - it is now funded and managed directly by the AMLR NRM Board, with the Green Web committee continuing to meet as an advisory body.

Along the way, the Green Web developed a life of its own. Because the Green Web committee includes representatives of many different environmental groups it has become a useful forum for the Council, community groups and other bodies to talk over issues, projects and opportunities which affect us all.

Mostly we talk about - you guessed it - weeds. How to combat them, which sites are the most important to target and what approaches will get the best result. Instead of the old 'them and us' arguments which seem so often to break out with Council and environmental issues, we are learning to work together, to co-operate.

by David Mussared