The importance of kawakawa to Māori is shown in its role as a Rau Aroha, a garland used in tangihanga/funeral rites.
Kawakawa produces some of the better tasting berries, known as tākawa, and refreshing herbal tea, beer, and even ice-cream can be made from its leaves.
The leaves of kawakawa contain a potent insecticide to protect them from hungry insects. Māori gardeners would burn rows of kawakawa branches amongst their kumara plantations, to keep away insects that might damage the crop.
Looper caterpillars, however, have grown immune to the poison, and emerge at night to chew holes in the aromatic leaves.