In 1884 Germany declared the northeast of the island of New Guinea, and the adjacent islands, to be the Protectorate of New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago. Until 1899 the protectorate was administered by a private company, the Neuguinea Kompagnie (New Guinea Company), which hoped to use local labor to work tobacco and coconut plantations on the mainland coast. The local people were uncooperative and laborers brought in from some of the New Guinea islands, Dutch East Indies and Asia, succumbed to malaria, dysentery and influenza. German settlers failed to arrive in viable numbers and the company collapsed. However, in islands such as Buka, Bougainville and New Britain, where settlers had become established before the arrival of the New Guinea Company, plantations were relatively successful. Here, the planters were a mixture of nationalities of people with greater experience of the Pacific. And, although there was some opposition, particularly in East New Britain, to the alienation of land, many of the villagers were cooperative because they had had fruitful prior contact with European traders and missionaries.
In 1899 the German Imperial government took over control of the protectorate as an Imperial German colony. The Administrator extended control by establishing districts overseen by German officers and recruiting local headmen in the villages. German colonial methods in New Guinea were rather like those used by MacGregor in British New Guinea. Regions were brought under control by force. German governors, unlike their British and Australian equivalents, had small units of white troops at their disposal. Lutheran, Catholic and Methodist missionaries provided rudimentary education and health services as well as Christian instruction. In spite of these activities, much of the territory remained beyond Administration or mission control.
At the outbreak of World War I Britain asked Australia to capture the radio station in Rabaul, the German colonial headquarters. In September 1914 Australian troops occupied the colony and proclaimed military rule.