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 2015. Before coming to Auckland, I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Geography at Simon Fraser University, Canada, and worked in national and local government. I received my PhD in 2014 from the University of Newcastle, Australia.

I am an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Housing Policy elected Councillor of the Royal Society Te Apārangi and Co-Chair of its 'Early Career Researcher Forum'.

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 Te Apārangi Marsden Fund, I am currently researching 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 - Geographies of Policy (coordinator)

Postgraduate supervision

Post-doctoral fellowship:

  • Financing sustainable futures? The construction of Green Bonds - Ryan Jones


  • The resurgence of the public library: An examination of the planning, construction and use of Tūranga - Salene Schloffel-Armstrong (co-supervised with Robin Kearns) (in progress)
  • Power and politics in social policy reform: The case of state housing in New Zealand - Jordan King (co-supervised with Louise Humpage) (in progress)


  • Informal waste management in Phnom Penh - Sreyrith Phan (in progress)
  • Wastewater-based epidemiology as a method to explore spatial, temporal and sociodemographic patterns of drug use: A New Zealand case study - Mackay Price (co-supervised with Sam Trowsdale) (in progress)
  • Making a companion out of a commodity: Exploring the practice of greyhound rehoming in New Zealand - Emily Stevens (co-supervised with Nick Lewis) (in progress)
  • Mobilising the market in social services: Social impact bonds, fast policy and neoliberalised policymaking in New Zealand - Rebecca Grimwood (co-supervised with Louise Humpage) (in progress)
  • Getting the crowd to care: An examination of health-related crowdfunding in Aotearoa New Zealand - Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns (co-supervised with Octavia Calder-Dawe and Ann E. Bartos)
  • Home-makers: Investigating the experiences of self-employed women working from home - Brittany Goodwin (co-supervised with Ann E. Bartos)
  • 'For me it was super easy, but for other people ...': Investigating assisted inclusion and the privelege to move 'freely' between New Zealand and Australia - Thomas Bayliss (co-supervised with Francis Collins)
  • The legitimation of centralised water infrastructure: A case study of Auckland's Central Interceptor - Polly Holland (co-supervised with Sam Trowsdale)
  • The New Zealand universal basic income fund: A public equity project - Daniel Kwon (co-supervised with Julie MacArthur)
  • Social entrepreneurial subject formation within collective affects: An analysis of hope at the 2017 Social Enterprise World Forum - Michael Mann
  • Imagining suburbia: Imaginative production of traditional and post-suburban forms in Auckland - Cameron Johnson (co-supervised with Francis Collins)
  • Solidarity, selectivity, security: The management of New Zealand migrants in Australia - Ryan Krebs (co-supervised with Nick Lewis)

Recent honours research topics:

  • Mental health coaching and digital technologies
  • FinTech, micro-investment and asset-based welfare
  • Temporary urbanism and publicness
  • 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)


Contact details

Primary office location

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

Social links

Web links