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NT Labor conference to debate putting the brakes on fracking -

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ELIZABETH JACKSON: Hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - is shaping up as a key battleground in the next Northern Territory election, due in August this year.

The Country Liberal Party Government sees tapping into the territory's onshore gas reserves as a key part of its plan for developing the Top End.

But the Northern Territory Labor Party wants the territory to follow the lead of some other states and put on the brakes. It's proposed a moratorium on fracking and that will be debated at the party's conference in Darwin today.

Sara Everingham reports.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The debate over hydraulic fracturing has arrived in the Northern Territory, just in time for the next territory election due later this year.

The Labor Opposition is calling for a moratorium on fracking, a position that will be up for debate at the party's conference this weekend.

The NT Labor leader is Michael Gunner:

MICHAEL GUNNER: The Labor Party's position is that there will be a moratorium on fracking in the Northern Territory. And this weekend at conference we'll be discussing some of the details around what that moratorium will look like and what shape it will take after the next NT election.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The Northern Territory Chief Minister, Adam Giles, told Parliament this week Labor's moratorium would jeopardise a key plan for the development of the north.

ADAM GILES: Is this just populism in time of an election? You are putting in place the jeopardy of $2 billion worth of investment right now. $2 billion; 6,000 jobs.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Adam Giles and his Country Liberals Government have been promoting the $1 billion North East Gas Interconnector, a gas pipeline connecting the NT to the east coast grid.

The Chief Minister says it will take the Territory's gas to a market.

The peak body for the oil and gas exploration and production industry, APPEA, says a moratorium could jeopardise the viability of the project.

The group's representative in the NT is Matthew Doman:

MATTHEW DOMAN: It has access to some gas from offshore Northern Territory, but the longer-term supply into that pipeline relies very heavily on onshore gas fields that are yet to be developed and cannot be developed without fracking.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Labor's Michael Gunner supports the pipeline but he will not be drawn on how a moratorium will affect the economics of the project.

MICHAEL GUNNER: And if you're going to build this pipeline, it has to be based off the facts as you know it. We've made it clear our support on that basis.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The Northern Territory Government has promised to put in better environmental regulation for the oil and gas industry, but that won't happen until after the election.

Labor's Michael Gunner says there's a lot more work to do before fracking can be given the green light in the NT where, he says, there's a lack of information about resources such as water.

MICHAEL GUNNER: And there is a degree of facts that need to be determined, I believe, around water in the NT, probably most specifically. And we don't want to make a rash decision around fracking without providing certainty to other industries in the NT, like the pastoral industry, tourism or fishing.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Labor has not decided how long its moratorium will last. Mr Gunner says voters will be told all the details before the election.