Dr Tom Baker

PhD, BDevStud(Hons)

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Senior Lecturer


I joined the School of Environment as a Lecturer in Human Geography in September 2015. Before coming to Auckland, I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Geography at Simon Fraser University, Canada (2014–15). In addition to these academic positions, I have worked in national and local government contexts, most recently as a Project Manager for the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2013–14). I received my PhD in 2014 from the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Research | Current

My research focuses on how public policies are made and implemented. Although policy-making can be technical—concerned with problems and solutions, efficiency and effectiveness—it is fundamentally a political process where the definitions of problem, solution, efficient and effective are made, contested and put to work in the world. To better understand the politics of policy, my research pays attention to:

  • Social dimensions—including the role of learning, communication and interpersonal networks
  • Institutional dimensions—including the role of local, national and inter/transnational agencies
  • Ideological dimensions—including the role of political value systems and frameworks of meaning
  • Spatial dimensions—including the role of particular places, scales and spaces

These interests are explored through empirical research on policies and practices related to homelessness, housing, social security, and drug treatment.

With support from the Royal Society of New Zealand's Marsden Fund, I am currently in the early stages of a project investigating the growth and implementation of privately-financed models of welfare service provision, such as social impact bonds and crowd-funding.   

Teaching | Current

GEOG 104 - Cities and Urbanism (contributor)

GEOG 307 - Urban Geography (contributor)

GEOG 315 - Research Design and Methods in Human Geography (contributor)

GEOG 701 - Research in Practice (coordinator)

GEOG 737 - Policy and Expertise (coordinator)

Postgraduate supervision


  • Power and politics in social policy reform: The case of state housing in New Zealand - Jordan King (co-supervised with Louise Humpage) (in progress)


  • Home-makers: Experiences of female entrepreneurs working from home - Brittany Goodwin (co-supervised with Ann E. Bartos) (in progress)
  • 'Free movement' in trans-Tasman migration - Thomas Bayliss (co-supervised with Francis Collins) (in progress)
  • The legitimation of centralised water infrastructure: A case study of Auckland's Central Interceptor - Polly Holland (co-supervised with Sam Trowsdale) (in progress)
  • The New Zealand universal basic income fund: A public equity project - Daniel Kwon (co-supervised with Julie MacArthur) (in progress)
  • Social entrepreneurial subject formation within collective affects: An analysis of hope at the 2017 Social Enterprise World Forum - Michael Mann (2017-18)
  • Imagining suburbia: Imaginative production of traditional and post-suburban forms in Auckland - Cameron Johnson (co-supervised with Francis Collins) (2016-17)
  • Solidarity, selectivity, security: The management of New Zealand migrants in Australia - Ryan Krebs (co-supervised with Nick Lewis) (2015-16)

Recent honours research topics:

  • Local responses to street-based sex work
  • Social media and the destigmatisation of welfare beneficiaries
  • Housing-led approaches to homelessness
  • Welfare beneficiary advocacy and everyday resistance
  • Real-estate advertisements and the production of suburban space

Areas of expertise

Public policy, welfare state, social services, cities, urban politics, urban planning

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Johnson, C., Baker, T., & Collins, F. L. (2019). Imaginations of post-suburbia: Suburban change and imaginative practices in Auckland, New Zealand. Urban Studies, 1-19. 10.1177/0042098018787157
  • Baker, T., & McGuirk, P. (2018). 'He came back a changed man': The popularity and influence of policy tourism. Area, 1-16. Related URL.
  • Baker, T., & McCann, E. (2018). Beyond failure: the generative effects of unsuccessful proposals for Supervised Drug Consumption Sites (SCS) in Melbourne, Australia. Urban Geography10.1080/02723638.2018.1500254
  • Baker, T., & Cooper, S. (2017). New Zealand's social investment experiment. Critical Social Policy, 38 (2), 428-438. 10.1177/0261018317745610
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/42041
  • Baker, T., & Davis, C. (2017). Everyday resistance to workfare: Welfare beneficiary advocacy in Auckland, New Zealand. Social Policy and Society10.1017/S1474746417000306
  • Baker, T., Cook, I. R., McCann, E., Temenos, C., & Ward, K. (2016). Policies on the move: The transatlantic travels of Tax Increment Financing. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 106 (2), 459-469. 10.1080/00045608.2015.1113111
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/30054
  • Baker, T., & McGuirk, P. M. (2016). Assemblage thinking as methodology: Commitments and practices for critical policy research. Territory, Politics, Governance, 5 (4), 425-442. 10.1080/21622671.2016.1231631
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/36138
  • Baker, T., & Evans, J. (2016). 'Housing first' and the changing terrains of homeless governance. Geography Compass, 10 (1), 25-41. 10.1111/gec3.12257
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/29951


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 4, Room 459
New Zealand

Social links

Web links