VIRGINIA Lake will now be known as Rotokawau Virginia Lake.

Whanganui district councillors yesterday formally voted in favour of the name change which has been slowly introduced to signage in recent years.

Whanganui District Council and Te Runanga O Tupoho had previously agreed to change the name. Yesterday's council decision also named the surrounding reserve Rotokawau Virginia Lake Reserve.

The word Rotokawau translates to the lake of the black shag.

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Whanganui mayor Annette Main said the new name was already in use and had not been contentious.

"In practice (with the signs) we've had both the names on them for up to two years with no comment received from anyone," she said. There was no intention for the name to be gazetted, but it would be used on records. "It's about respect for the two different views in our community and the two different histories."

However, councillor Ray Stevens said the council needed a set policy for renaming sites. "We're doing it randomly here on a one-off. There are other people who should be consulted. To adopt something as the preferred option without consultation is very disappointing."

Councillor Charlie Anderson was also against the move for lack of community input.

Other councillors such as Jason Granville said most people would still call it Virginia Lake anyway but supported the change. "I think we can easily put the story out there and give everyone a bit of a history lesson," he said.

Councillor Rob Vinsen was concerned about any cost coming out of the parks and reserves budget, saying it should instead come from money set aside for council's relationship with iwi.

Mr Stevens and Mr Anderson voted against the change.