Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has condemned Minister Shane Jones calling for heads to roll at Air New Zealand as "a step too far".
Mr Jones, the Minister for Regional Economic Development, said earlier this week that Air New Zealand had turned its back on the regions.
When the company's board and chief executive objected to his comments and told him to back off, he then called for people to resign.
Ms Ardern said Mr Jones likely made the controversial comment because of his deep affection for the regions.
"I think the original point that Shane raised, as someone who is a strong defender of the regions, won't surprise anyone," she said on Wednesday afternoon.
"But calling for the sacking of any board member is a step too far and I have told him that."
He advised chief executive Chris Luxton, "if you want to be a politician, step down today - otherwise get back into your box," according to Stuff.
Speaking to RNZ, he said the entire board were "no longer serving a purpose that suits the entirety of New Zealand, because they are short-changing the provinces."
He said Air New Zealand chairman Tony Carter should be the start of a change to the board, and growth and connectivity in the regions would not improve unless the board changed.
Ms Ardern said Mr Jones' actions were "not a sacking offence".
"He's expressed an opinion, one that I know some New Zealanders will certainly share some sympathy for - particularly those in the regions.
"But suggested someone should be sacked is too far."