“Stop the bulldozers once and for all”: Speech by Gianfranco D’Eramo, Custodi del Bosco d’Arneo

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

My name is Gianfranco D’Eramo, I am speaking on behalf of the Italian action alliance Custodi del Bosco d’Arneo.

Since 2012 Porsche manages the Nardo’ Technical Centre (NTC) in the Apulia region of Southern Italy. The NTC, known as “the Ring,” has over 20 test tracks, 40 workshops, and various accessory services that provide top conditions for developing and testing activities. When it took over the NTC, Porsche also committed to preserve the Bosco d’Arneo, a 500-hectare oak-tree forest that hosts the NTC premises. This forest is centuries old and due to its rich biodiversity it is part of the network of protected areas safeguarded by EU Law.

Indeed, for over 10 years, Porsche effectively protected the forest: the closed and off-limits premises surrounded by high-walls and the work of the NTC fire station prevented wildfires and illegal activities such as hunting, tree-cutting and garbage dumping. We never walked through the forest but we always relied on Porsche’s Zero Impact policy and trusted the commitment to “the lowest possible negative impact on the environment”. Surely, we never expected rewilding projects in the NTC, like those implemented by Porsche in its plants and sites like Leipzig, where it even produces eco-certified honey. There is simply no need to introduce bees in Bosco d’Arneo: they already live there, in the integrated and self-sustaining ecosystem of a centuries-old forest and have learnt to coexist, alongside the other living creatures, with the noisy vehicles running around every-day and night.

Our trust vanished last summer, when we learnt about the plan to expand the NTC. This plan turns Porsche from a custodian of our forest to its main executioner. It envisages 9 additional test tracks, administrative and service buildings, workstations, parking lots and, in particular, a new fire station and a helipad equipped for medical emergency, all to be developed within the 700-hectare wide internal surface of the Ring comprising Porsch’s property. As a result, over 200 hectares of protected habitat will be cleared irreversibly. This is the only solution according to the documents, as they did not find other (less disruptive) alternatives to implement the ambitious plan.

However, Porsche also commits to “re-naturalise” an area of 500 hectares outside the Ring and not bordering the existing forest. This area, that looks more like a patchwork, comprises small plots of lands that with the sum of their small areas reach the exact quantity of a compensatory measure. What matters, these lands will be expropriated to 134 private owners, some of them are farmers and shepherds. In this fragmented area, Porsche promises to create a new forest that in the future shall be open to the public and indeed there will be one bicycle track which from the NTC entrance will lead to the nearby coast. Moreover, adding to this shopping list, the NTC makes available a) the future helipad for emergency medical evacuations and b) the capabilities of the new fire station, that will help combating wildfires in the surroundings.  

These were the reasons why the plan became regional law in November 2023, without public consultations and through an administrative process fit to formally avoid the screen of the European Commission as it is based on an assurance that there is a public interest to pursue this plan. Let me be more specific here. The services that in the future the NTC may provide through the helipad, the fire station and the new forest is what justifies what is called “a significant negative impact on the environment”: “Human health” (helipad), “Security” (the fire station) and the new forest (“Beneficial consequences on the environment”).

It is not surprising that Commissioner Sinkevičius has requested the Italian government to clarify key aspects of this plan, leading to a temporary suspension of the implementation. Indeed, one of the main obstacles we encountered when we formed this committee was searching through the available documents to figure out how legally and scientifically would be possible to justify (in 2024) the eradication of an old and self-sufficient ecosystem equivalent to the surface of 350 football fields. We found no logic in it and very little scientific data.

However, we believe that Science and Law are by our side and thus we welcome today’s opportunity to request clarifications and additional evidence, hoping they will cast light on the consequences of the “significant impact on the environment”. On the other hand, we look forward with confidence to the upcoming hearing of our administrative court. Let me conclude with a call to Porsche to respect its due diligence commitments which in this case are being blatantly overlooked. We call Porsche to rethink this plan and to give concrete effect to the Business and Human Rights principles subscribed to UN and to the OECD. We thank our friends from the German civil society that prove in practice a deep commitment to preserve a sanctuary that belongs to all of us. That forest did not grow overnight, and we will not let Porsche destroy it with decisions taken overnight.


A very basic first question is about (1) the reason why there is no other reasonable and less disruptive alternative to this plan. (2) Why it is not possible to implement the plan outside the protected habitat? (3) Why the need to expropriate property rather than purchasing the plots of land directly from the owners?

A second set of questions concerns (1) the total area of forest to be removed and (2) the expected increase in CO2 levels. Specifically, we would like to know (3) the number of century-old oak trees that will be cut down and (4) detailed data on the expected loss of biodiversity. (5) What practical considerations were given for the future of the animals currently living in the area (birds, mammals, invertebrates), since the new forest will only function as an “ecological corridor” in the distant future? Additionally, (6) what is the expected timeframe for the new forest to become self-sustaining? We also need to know (7) how much water will be required to ensure the survival of the new seedlings (representing only 14 of the over 420 existing plant species) for at least ten years, where this water will come from, and how it will be transported. (8) How will the survival of the new plants be guaranteed in case of a prolonged water emergency?

A third set of questions concerns both the helipad and the fire station. (1) Why is the helipad (with more than 600 flights envisaged per year) planned in the centre of a protected area with critically important and endangered species? (2) Who will fund the salaries of the medical staff to ensure the consistent availability of emergency transfers? (3) What is Porsche’s response to those who say the helipad is only intended to facilitate the trips of the NTC staff from/to/within the region? The expansion of the fire station and its potential integration into the regional security system is another reason cited for public interest. However, the documents do not explain the reach of these services, beyond the immediate NTC surroundings. (1) How will the fire station prioritise interventions in case of wildfires occurring in both NTC and public areas? (2)  What is Porsche’s response to those who argue that maintaining a fire station is just a legally required service necessary for the company’s increasing operations?

A fourth set of questions relate more to transparency. The plan has been widely promoted as a unique opportunity for local economic development. However, figures are lacking for example about the expected increase in staffing levels in the NTC. This is for us important to know to respond to critics of the company hiring policies. These are largely seen as favouring personnel of external agencies, discriminating de facto local recruitment. As such, we would like to ask you to share: (1) figures about the current staffing levels at the NTC compared to the expected increase at the end implementation disaggregated between directly hired staff and Staff hired from employment agencies.

A final consideration. Given the sizeable investment and considering that this is one of the most extensive land transformation projects in our region, with uncertain consequences on the future generations, does Porsche’s management feel the responsibility of today’s decisions? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to halt bulldozers and invest resources in searching credible alternative solutions?  How important is for Porsche to regain the trust of thousands of citizens who point out to the company’s failure to implement its due diligence policy and walk the talk on its ambitious targets.

According to the latest public annual report, 2022 was the strongest year in Porsche’s history. With a turnover of €37.6 billion, net profit increased by 22.8%, reaching just under €5 billion. The margin rose from 16% to 18%. For 2023, Porsche had forecasted a turnover between €40 and €42 billion and a return on investment of 17-19%. How much would revising the NTC ambitions affect the extraordinary turnover of recent years?

Thank you!

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