Prime Minister Helen Clark said yesterday she is pleased Pacific leaders have agreed to a regional plan she promoted to improve co-operation between small nations.

"A Pacific Plan has been adopted in its entirety and the leaders see that as a good path ahead," she told reporters after returning to Port Moresby following the Pacific Forum retreat on an island.

She also announced a raft of funding pledges from helping to combat Aids through to improving justice systems.

Topics raised at the forum included Aids, preparing for bird flu, immigration and trade deals.

But the main focus was the regional plan, first raised at the forum in New Zealand in 2003.

It aims to promote growth, sustainable development and good governance in the Pacific.

It includes 22 initiatives, many on trade liberalisation, for immediate implementation.

Non-governmental groups called for the plan to be rejected saying trade liberalisation could hurt small economies, but Helen Clark thought it would do the opposite.

She said the endorsement showed the leaders' support.

"I think the very careful work that's gone into the Pacific Plan and the consultation that's gone on from the very beginning with the eminent persons group, the development of the plan, the priorities, the initiatives, all that preliminary work has paid off with the forum leaders being happy to proceed with it."

While the plan did not directly tackle poverty in the Pacific, Helen Clark said it was a step in the right direction.

At the retreat, she outlined several funding announcements which she said were well received.

They were:

* Confirmation of a package of support of up to $12 million over the next three years for HIV/Aids to implement the Pacific Regional HIV/Aids strategy and other initiatives.

* $5.42 million for judicial education and development activities.

* $1.4 million over two years to help establish a permanent home for the Oceania Customs Organisation Secretariat in Suva.

* $825,000 to support the South Pacific Commission and the New Zealand Ministry of Health's efforts to prepare for avian flu.

* $216,045 for operating costs of the Kula II Fund - a new Pacific investment fund promoting investments in small and medium enterprises in the region - for an initial three-year period.

* $3 million for the Tokelau Trust Fund this year. This will bring the balance of the fund to $25 million.

* Increased funding to the Forum Secretariat to set up a unit to support the integration of the Small Islands States into regional co-operation activities.

Countries in the forum are Australia, the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

- NZPA