Local Government Minister Nick Smith says the Government is giving Christchurch City Council weeks, not months, to address the concerns over governance.
About 2000 people on Wednesday protested at the city council offices calling for early elections and a new chief executive.
Dr Smith told Morning Report the public should give Crown observer Kerry Marshall, who has just been appointed to oversee the council's performance, a fair shot at trying to sort things out.
Dr Smith said he has received reports the council has a real willingness to change, and he believes that is the best hope for getting it back on track.
He said that if the council does go completely into meltdown, the Government would intervene reluctantly by appointing commissioners to take over.
Dr Smith said the process of calling early elections would take about six months, which would then put the council in a neutered caretaker position for nine months until the next elections in 2013.