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 - Policy and Expertise (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)


  • 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)
  • Crowdfunding care: Examining the use of crowdfunding platforms for health expenses in Aotearoa New Zealand - Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns (co-supervised with Octavia Calder-Dawe and Ann E. Bartos) (in progress)
  • The implementation of Social Impact Bonds in Aotearoa New Zealand - Rebecca Grimwood (co-supervised with Louise Humpage) (in progress)
  • 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:

  • 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)

  • Neuwelt-Kearns, C., Baker, T., & Calder-Dawe, O. (2020). Informal governance and the spatial management of street-based sex work in Aotearoa New Zealand. Political Geography, 7910.1016/j.polgeo.2020.102154
  • Trowsdale, S., Boyle, K., & Baker, T. (2020). Politics, water management and infrastructure. Philosophical Transactions: Series A, 378 (2168)10.1098/rsta.2019.0208
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Sam Trowsdale
  • Baker, T., Meese, H., & Sisson, A. (2020). #WeAreBeneficiaries: Contesting poverty stigma through social media. Antipode, online first10.1111/anti.12617
  • Baker, T., & McGuirk, P. (2019). 'He came back a changed man': The popularity and influence of policy tourism. Area, 51 (3), 561-569. 10.1111/area.12505
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/46329
  • Turner, A., Mann, M., & Baker, T. (2019). Property advertising and the representational production of suburbia: “Functional suburbs” and “lifestyle suburbs” in Auckland. New Zealand Geographer, 75 (2), 74-84. 10.1111/nzg.12217
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/47190
  • Baker, T., McCann, E., & Temenos, C. (2019). Into the ordinary: Non-elite actors and the mobility of harm reduction policies. Policy and Society10.1080/14494035.2019.1626079
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/48416
  • Baker, T., Evans, J., & Hennigan, B. (2019). Investable poverty: Social investment states and the geographies of poverty management. Progress in Human Geography, online first10.1177/0309132519849288
  • Baker, T., & McGuirk, P. (2019). Out from the shadows? Voluntary organisations and the assembled state. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space10.1177/2399654419843541
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/47065


Contact details

Primary office location

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

Social links

Web links