According to Center for Labor Education & Research website of University of Hawai‘i, it mentions that it was for as currency:
With the arrival of Western traders and businessmen, native Hawaiian
resources like kapa bark cloth and the highly prized and fragrant
‘iliahi, sandalwood, soon became the currency supporting a new island
economy. By 1827, though, the reigning monarch, King Kamehameha III
was faced with a burgeoning trade deficit and many personal debts. To
meet this crisis he was forced to decree that every man would be
assessed a picul of sandalwood and every woman, not infirm or
decrepit, a 12 feet by six feet kapa mat.
At his command loyal maka‘āinana laboriously depleted the aged
sandalwood forests to such an extent that this slow-growing tree was
nearly eradicated. As the sandalwood trade exhausted, it was soon
replaced by the demands of the whaling industry. Sailors wanted fresh
vegetables, sturdy kapa for ship repair, and young, able-bodied men to
fill out their crews.
So based on this authority I would not say it was merely a 'curiosity'. Further reading here.