Tāmaki Innovation Campus


Dan Exeter
Dr Daniel Exeter and Lisa Barrett, Land Information New Zealand Chief Executive

As a boy, Daniel Exeter was first into the family car, grabbing the front seat and an armful of maps and taking on the self-appointed task of navigator.

This love of maps has continued through his academic career, taking him to St Andrews University to complete his PhD before returning to Auckland to take up a role in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the School of Population Health.  

With a background in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and spatial analysis Daniel considers himself to be a quantitative health geographer while others prefer to refer to him as being a spatial epidemiologist. Either way, the most important thing is that he’s committed to ensuring his work makes a difference to the populations and neighbourhoods he works with.

As the ‘front seat navigator’, his work has been consistently focussed around creating maps to tell a story. Recently, his design and leadership in the creation of the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) has led to a win in a category of the New Zealand Spatial Excellence Awards.

The IMD enables a better measure of area-level deprivation through employment, income, crime, housing, health, education and access to services.

“All of this has helped people to better understand communities, and is informing research, policies and practices and should lead to reductions in inequalities in our society,” he says. “We measure deprivation at the neighbourhood level, which may even be just a few streets long and a few streets wide.”

The IMD uses routinely collected data from government departments, census data and methods comparable to current international deprivation indices to measure different forms of disadvantage. Government officials have been very generous with information sharing, and excited by the way their data can help tell the story, he says.

Extremely grateful to the Health Research Council, which funded the IMD project, Daniel Exeter says the IMD enables users to answer a critical question not addressed using the existing NZ Deprivation Index, namely, “what is driving the deprivation in this area?” 

It was a question raised 20 years ago, when he first mapped NZDep1991 for a client in Te Tai Tokerau, which sparked his thinking into reconsidering how we think about deprivation.

The IMD unlocks the ‘why and how”. Measured deprivation can be analysed into the drivers behind; whether lack of job opportunities, a community’s health, or household overcrowding as contributors. Daniel and his IMD team (Michael Browne, Arier Lee, Jinfeng Zhao, and Sue Crengle-now at Otago) have worked with the groups who have objected to new liquor stores opening in areas with higher levels of deprivation.

 “Being able to say this neighbourhood is the 10th worst in the country in terms of, for example, income deprivation, is particularly powerful”.  More commercially, it recently had input into the Waikato Spatial Plan, which aims to contribute to the Waikato's social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being through a comprehensive and effective long-term (30-year) growth and development strategy.

As befits someone who knows where a journey starts and ends, Daniel is looking forward to the move to Grafton where he expects wider collegial access and linkages within FMHS and other faculties to increase the use of his research to improve health and social outcomes.