Can NRM agencies rely on capable and effective staff to build trust in the agency

Emily Sharp, Allan Curtis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Trust is recognised as an important component of agency–community relations, influencing the social acceptability of resource access and natural resource management (NRM). It is not clear if perceptions of the trustworthiness of agency staff members can lead to trust in an agency. This is an important question for agencies working in contentious policy arenas such as water reform in Australia's Murray-Darling Basin. This research addressed that gap and developed a set of survey items that can be employed to benchmark trust and trustworthiness by exploring groundwater irrigator's trust in the New South Wales Office of Water (NoW). A survey was mailed to all farming properties with a groundwater licence in the Namoi catchment. As might be expected, licence holders were more likely to trust agency staff than NoW itself. Perceptions of agency and staff trustworthiness influenced landholder trust in NoW. Agency trustworthiness partially mediated the relationship between staff trustworthiness and agency trust. These findings suggest that trust should be viewed as a multi-level phenomenon. To the extent that these findings are replicated, a key implication is that community engagement strategies attempting to build trust in an agency should set out to influence how the agency itself is perceived as an organisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-280
Number of pages13
JournalAustralasian Journal of Environmental Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

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