The recent articles in The Witness by Rob Haswell (May 8) and Colin Gardner (May 15) about the metro status of Pietermaritzburg reveal in their silences something of the collective blindness of our society. Not everyone is immune to the animal sounds or to the quiet white blossoms of the wild pear in spring or the red glow of the aloes in the bleach of winter. There is a long history of many conservation-minded people who have struggled to conserve this rich habitat. Ashburton is not the aberration described by Gardner, nor a “strange boundary”, gerrymandered into separation from the city. Ashburton’s unique identity is reflected in the Ashburton Structure and Development Plan which evolved during a participatory Integrated Development Plan (IDP) process and was formally approved by the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature in 1994 and further amended in 1999. These documents reflect the rural nature of the eastern region and emphasise an eco-tourism and agriculture focus. The IDPs of two adjacent municipalities propose developing the Mkhambathini Big Five Game Reserve, a project which is being actively pursued by the Amaximba community with support from the Land Commission and the KZN Tourism Authority. The Lower Mpushini Valley Conservancy is currently being declared a protected area.