Speaking to Welsh members of the park authorities in Plas Tan Y Bwlch, Snowdonia, on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Wales's first national park, Ms Essex said:
'Park authorities have a very important role to play in assisting the rural economy to make a full and speedy recovery in the wake of foot and mouth.
'The challenge for the parks now is to help ensure that the funding allocated to rural recovery, such as the£60m Assembly Rural Recovery Plan, is effectively utilised in support of farm, tourism and other business projects and local communities, within the parks.
'The second major challenge relates to planning. Our national parks contain the most beautiful and fragile environments in Wales and it is essential that the decisions we take about the way they change do not jeopardise their qualities for future generations.
'However, we also need to be aware that communities living in and helping shape the parks need homes, jobs and services. It is these tensions which help make national parks such exciting places.'
The assembly is providing£60m total funding over 3 years to enable implementation of measures outlined in its Rural Recovery Plan to support rural businesses of all kinds; to support local communities and to help with the social problems foot and mouth has created, including stress.
In addition, the assembly agriculture department, the WDA and ELWa have been able to re-prioritise expenditure totalling some£5m to help areas hit by foot and mouth.
Specific measures include:
A further£9m to enable local authorities to provide more help to business (making a total of£21m)
Further action on rural stress including£2m for the rural hardship fund
£5m fund for integrated tourism and environmental projects
£5m fund for community regeneration schemes
£2m for a new Rural Business Development Fund to be operated by the WTB
The assembly's 'Draft Planning Policy Wales' aims to set the context for sustainable land use planning policy, within which local planning authorities' statutory unitary development plans are prepared and development control decisions taken.
Sue Essex appoints Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority member
Sue Essex today announced the appointment of Richard Howells to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority. He replaces Andrew Middleton, who resigned earlier this year.
Mr Howells of Hook was the head of economic development at Preseli Pembrokeshire DC and co-founder of the Preseli Tourism Federation and the Local Authority Marketing Group.
Ms Essex said: 'In appointing Mr Howells, I am confident he will make a significant and effective contribution to the work of the park authority.
'He is committed to the area and will bring a very valuable national perspective to park issues.
'The work of the national park members is becoming ever more important and challenging, not least in promoting sustainable development at the local level. This assembly appointment, alongside the other members of the Park, will play a full role in helping the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park to meet these challenges.'
The appointment is for a period of three years commencing on 15 November 2001.
Of the 15 members of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, the national assembly for Wales appoints five. The constituent local authority appoints the remaining members. Park authority members are not paid, but receive expenses.
There are three national parks in Wales and they cover the most beautiful and spectacular landscapes. Parliament established national park authorities to conserve and enhance these special qualities and to promote opportunities for the public to understand and enjoy them. The parks are also encouraged to foster the social and economic well being of local communities. The national park authorities are the planning authorities within the park boundaries.