A thesis submitted to The University of Melbourne for the degree of Bachelor of Environments (honours) November 2014 by Lillian May Stevens
Conducting on-ground catchment care activities requires the consent of private landholders to gain access to their property. Past research suggests that trust is essential to gaining community support for water quality management policies, yet little is known about the role of trust in achieving on-ground outcomes.
The aim of this study was to explore the general factors that lead landholders to trust natural resource management (NRM) institutions to conduct grant-based, on-ground catchment care activities on their properties. Eighteen interviews were conducted, with twelve landholders and six agency staff members, as part of a qualitative case study in the Lake Baroon Catchment, Queensland. The results showed that there were eight ‘drivers’ that promoted trust (or distrust) between NRM institutions and landholders, these were: technical competency, moral competency, capacity to help, shared values, empathy and respect, familiarity, past experiences and reputation. In particular, shared values served as a lens through which the other drivers of trust were assessed, indicating that drivers of trust do not exist in isolation and act in a hierarchical manner. Furthermore, it was shown that the socio-economic circumstances of landholders impacted on their willingness to trust NRM institutions, and the broader institutional setting and funding models that NRM organisations operated within impacted on their ability to develop relationships of trust with landholders.
It is recommended that short term funding and on-going reliance on externally-provided, uncertain resources is avoided. In order to achieve sustainable on-ground outcomes, funding of NRM institutions should aim to provide stability over the long term and autonomy for decisions about priority setting and project selection as this enhances an institution’s ability to develop relationships of trust with landholders.