Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) institutions are challenged with finding common ground as a basis for action among diverse resource users and stakeholders. Establishing and maintaining institutional credibility within their regions, catchments, communities and among their membership is fundamental to overcoming the challenge. So too is applying appropriate institutional and governance structures and appointing appropriate leaders. Drawing on triangulated case study data collected over a 12-month period using multiple methods, this paper examines the influence of institutional credibility and leadership on the functioning, decision-making and governance of two CBNRM institutions in Queensland, Australia. The paper shows that stakeholders have very different expectations of what makes a CBNRM institution credible. Satisfying the multiple expectations requires CBNRM institutions to incorporate diverse stakeholder representation, assert their legitimacy and demonstrate accountability, transparency, fairness and justice. The paper also draws attention to the value and importance of appointing inspirational leaders who focus on encouraging followers to pursue collective goals. Comparing the merits and constraints of appointing average Joes versus community elites to the Boards of CBNRM institutions, the paper highlights the urgent need for community-based natural resource governance and inspirational leadership education and training programs to improve the availability and quality of CBNRM leadership in rural Australia. Since combining credible CBNRM institutions with inspirational leaders does not necessarily equate to sustainable on-ground NRM outcomes, it is critical that the education and training programs emphasise the importance of monitoring and evaluating the improvements in decision-making processes and in decision outcomes.
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