Tuhoe are holding emergency hui around the country to discuss Prime Minister John Key's announcement this week that iwi ownership of the Urewera National Park is off the negotiating table.

Feelings of betrayal are running high as an email was sent to members about the hui "to discuss John Key's unilateral decision to withdraw ownership of Te Urewera from Tuhoe's negotiations".

Tuhoe chief negotiator Tamati Kruger said the main response so far was to continue to seek ownership of the park, even though Mr Key has specifically ruled that out.

On Monday, the PM announced that sole ownership of the park by Tuhoe was unacceptable, even under conditions of universal access and managing it as a national park.

Such a deal was outside the scope of settlements and would be "a very unusual" step for the Government.

Tuhoe and the Maori Party, which has strongly criticised the announcement, thought the deal was virtually done.

Mr Kruger said a majority of the Cabinet supported returning the national park to Tuhoe, but it was scuttled by Mr Key at the last minute.

"The return of Te Urewera became the one [solution] that was do-able for all of us. There has been a bitter betrayal. From the start you declare your bottom lines. You don't wait 18 months and then do that," Mr Kruger told Radio NZ.

Tuhoe activist Tame Iti likened this week's development to the theft of a vehicle.

"It's like a pinched car. The Government are prepared to return the car to us without the ownership papers, but we want the papers too."

Mr Key disagreed that an agreement had been reached and said he had communicated clearly all along.

"I'm personally keen to see a settlement concluded, but it won't be a settlement that has the vesting of the Urewera National Park solely in the Tuhoe people."

Tuhoe warned other iwi that future negotiations with the Crown will now be more difficult.

"If this is indicative of the way forward," Mr Kruger said, "those waiting in the queue must be pretty nervous ... as to what they can expect from a government that's proven to be quite feeble and nervous in dealing with claims."

Central North Island iwi Ngati Tuwharetoa is waiting for its mandate to begin Treaty negotiations with the Crown, which may include a claim on parts of the Tongariro National Park.

The deputy co-chairman of the Tuwharetoa Hapu Forum, Colin Rangi, said the details of the claim still had to be fleshed out, but he was watching the Tuhoe talks closely.

The Maori Party said the Government had mishandled expectations. Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell said ownership was a done deal and Mr Key's explanation made no sense.

"If we take it that it was an important issue, [that] it was due on the Cabinet table to be considered, that the Ministers of the Office of Treaty Settlements and Finance had been involved in discussions ... one might say it was a done deal.

"Put another way, why go 18 months in discussions to take something to Cabinet knowing it would fall? It does not add up.

"It was going to happen and for some reason the Prime Minister pulled it unilaterally, leaving his ministers embarrassed."

Mr Flavell said he hoped ownership was still possible "but it does not seem likely with John Key".

"They negotiated in good faith to the 11th hour and almost had it. Their property right has been denied them again. They planned to have a transition period even, but all of that is off the table now."

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING: NZPA