Dhilum Nightingale


RMA Hearings Commissioner

Dhilum has practiced in both the private and public sectors since 1999, at large national firms and organisations. She joined the independent bar in 2021.  Dhilum has extensive experience in resource management, employment, immigration and public law.

Dhilum has a strong sense of social justice, cultural awareness and sensitivity, and is immensely proud of her Sri Lankan heritage.  Dhilum’s tikanga and mahi are guided by the cross-cultural values of karunawa (kindness), yuktiya (justice), anukampawa (compassion), rangatiratanga (self-empowerment) and manaakitanga (caring for and supporting others).

Dhilum’s environmental and resource management legal practice has recently involved advising the Ministry for the Environment on RMA system reform and the draft national planning framework, fast-track consenting and emergency legislation, acting for community groups opposing quarries, waste to energy, roading and other projects, and advocating for improved animal welfare outcomes in intensive farming practices.  She has also advised individuals, organisations and NGOs on a range of consenting and planning proposals, and takes instructions from other lawyers and barristers on over-flow work or when staff are on leave.

In 2023, Dhilum was appointed as Chair of the Freshwater Hearing Panel and Part 1, Schedule 1 Panel hearing submissions on proposed Change 1 to the Regional Policy Statement for the Wellington Region.  These hearings continue through 2023 and into the first half of 2024 when the Panels will issue their recommendations to Council.

Dhilum acts for marginalised and vulnerable people of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds through her immigration and employment work at Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley, and as a volunteer and employee advocate at Citizens Advice Bureau, Wellington.  Her focus in this work is on migrant exploitation advocacy and family violence immigration visas.  Dhilum is currently undertaking two funded research projects in these areas with the support of Borrin Foundation and Shama Ethnic Women’s Trust.

Dhilum has worked as a contractor for Creative HQ and is familiar with using a range of design-thinking tools.  She enjoys bringing a strategic, innovative and client-centred approach to problem-solving.  Dhilum is the founder of VERI-Mi Charitable Trust that was developed through a Creative HQ accelerator.  VERI-Mi is a registered charity that advocates for and empowers exploited migrants through improving access to information and justice.  VERI-Mi is currently developing a digital solution to migrant exploitation.

Dhilum believes cost should not be a barrier to effective advocacy or access to justice.  Dhilum is very happy to discuss a range of payment options with you.

Outside of work Dhilum enjoys spending time with her three teenage children, running with her dog, tramping and biking, and she is part-way through a 3 year Iyengar Yoga Teacher training course.

Qualifications and appointments

LLB (Hons), University of Auckland, 1999
BA (English), University of Auckland, 1999
LLM (Distinction), Victoria University of Wellington, 2006
Post Graduate Diploma in Planning (Distinction), Massey University, 2017
Nano degree in Innovation, Creative HQ (Design thinking methods and tools), 2019
Admitted as Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand, 1999
Accredited RMA Hearings Commissioner (Chair endorsed), 2019
Freshwater Commissioner, 2023

Awards, publications, memberships, and community involvement

Community Law Fellowship 2022, Borrin Foundation: Conducting research of improving employer accountability for migrant exploitation
Graduate Award (LLM), Victoria University of Wellington 2006
Senior Prize in English, University of Auckland, 1996
D Nightingale “Achieving Net Zero Carbon: How the RMA can help” (2018) RMJ 3
Guest lecturer, Resource Management & Planning Law, Massey University, School of Planning and Geography, 2017, 2019 and 2020
Guest lecturer, Employment law, Victoria University Law School, 2023
Presenter, Resource Management Law Association Conference 2018 (RMA Barriers to Decarbonisation of the Energy Sector)
Member, New Zealand Bar Association | Ngā Ahorangi Motuhake o te Ture
Member, New Zealand Law Society Immigration & Refugee Law Committee, 2023
Member, Wellington Women Lawyers’ Association; Secretary from July 2023
National Committee, Resource Management Law Association, 2021 – September 2023
Wellington Committee, Resource Management Law Association, 2023
Founder and Trustee, VERI-Mi Charitable Trust, a registered charity set up to combat migrant exploitation in Aotearoa
Global Women, Activate Leaders Programme, Graduate, November 2017
Volunteer and Employee Advocate, Citizens Advice Bureau, 2018 – present
Volunteer Refugee Advocate, Wellington Community Law Centre, Refugee & Immigration Service, 1999 – 2005; 2017 – 2019
Founder and Co-Chair, Predator Free Island Bay, February 2017 – 2021
Trustee, Pacific Primary Montessori Education, Berhampore School, 2012 – 2020

Immigration and employment

Dhilum provides empathetic, quality and cost-effective legal advice and advocacy to support vulnerable manuhiri (guests) in Aotearoa. She specialises in obtaining redress and justice for migrants experiencing exploitation in their workplaces or family violence in their homes.  Dhilum can also advise on a range of immigration visa applications including family violence visas and work visas.  She is an experienced employee advocate and can help migrants and New Zealand residents and citizens achieve an efficient resolution of workplace grievances and redress for breaches of minimum employment standards.

Resource Management

Dhilum is experienced in resource management law, planning and policy and can help landowners, community groups, corporates, government agencies and others understand, and advocate for their rights within Aotearoa’s resource management system.  Dhilum can help clients participate in local and central government policy proposals including preparing submissions on draft legislation, plan change reviews, resource consent applications and notices of requirement for designations.  Dhilum was the in-house RMA corporate counsel at Transpower NZ Limited for over seven years.  In that role she appeared in local authority hearings and Environment Court appeal processes on plan change and policy statement reviews throughout Aotearoa.  Dhilum’s environmental legal experience extends into many areas including waste minimisation, hazardous substances and new organisations, marine management, and Environmental Protection Authority approval processes.

Dhilum is an Accredited RMA Hearings Commissioner and on the national committee of the Resource Management Law Association.

Public law

Dhilum has a comprehensive understanding of the machinery of government, the operation of public bodies and policy and legislation development having worked for 20 years in a range of public sector organisations including a state-owned enterprise, a crown entity, government departments and in Parliament as Private Secretary to a Minister for the Environment.  Dhilum is available to take instructions on submissions to select committees, challenges to the exercise of public powers, Official Information Act matters and privacy law including information sharing.