The money Horizons Regional Council spends on biodiversity will become more contestable in the next financial year.
Biodiversity - preserving a full range of plant and animal life - is one of the council's "big four" resource management issues.
From July 2021, some of the funding for groups will be contestable, and councillors will use a list of criteria to decide who gets it.
Groups with projects that are "iconic" or highly collaborative might get funded across several years.
Making funding contestable would ensure the best use of limited money, Horizons natural resources and partnerships manager Jon Roygard said.
Whanganui councillor Nicola Patrick will lead the committee that decides on funding, aided by Rangitīkei's John Turkington and Palmerston North's Fiona Gordon.
She worried that organisations expecting funding would be disappointed if their project wasn't chosen. Ruapehū councillor Weston Kirton expected "anguish" if funding was cut without warning.
Roygard said that was yet to be discovered, but he was sure there was more work out there that people wanted to do.
There was a chance allocating funding that way could inspire outside organisations to contribute as well, Patrick said, or it could lead to more Jobs for Nature at Horizons, at councils or at the Department of Conservation.
"There are no guarantees. It's possible, but it's not easy."
Horowhenua councillor Sam Ferguson wanted to make sure small groups that lack expertise don't miss out on funding. He asked whether Horizons staff might help with their applications.
In this financial year the council will make its usual grants to biodiversity partnership projects.
Rangitīkei Environment Group, which undertakes old man's beard/Clematis vitalba control in the Rangitīkei will get $95,000 - all from a Rangitīkei targeted rate.
Kia Wharite, a combined project with DoC to protect kiwi, whio and native forest in the Retaruke/Whanganui National Park area, will get $150,000 from Horizons.
Also on the Whanganui River, the Tawata mainland Island project will get $15,000. The 1100ha of forest is fenced and much of the work there is controlling predators to allow birds to flourish.
A previous leader of the programme had gone and left a void, Roygard said, but it was getting back on track. It needed checking against milestones but was a priority project.
Bushy Park Tarapuruhi, a predator-fenced 100ha bush remnant near Whanganui, gets $20,000.
The biggest beneficiary this year is Te Āpiti/the Manawatū Gorge, which has 1000ha of bush where species may be re-introduced in future. It got $245,000, which will be added to by Waka Kotahi/New Zealand Transport Agency and councils funding.
As well as funding landowners and groups for biodiversity work, the council provides technical advice. Its biodiversity team can be contacted by ringing 0508 800 800.
"Community groups really value having dedicated staff advisers working with them," Patrick said.