A person who appeared half-naked on a police reality television show has been awarded $1000 compensation for breach of privacy.

The airing of the footage amounted to an unjustified "highly offensive intrusion" of the person's privacy, the Broadcasting Standards Authority ruled.

The footage was broadcast on TVNZ's Water Patrol.

The person, who was filmed on a private boat in a public but remote waterway, had made efforts to be in a secluded area and was caught off-guard by the police boat, the authority said.

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The person's state of undress was used to add humour to the show at the person's expense and their questions to a police officer regarding filming were not properly answered, the authority found.

It also said it had warned broadcasters they would be more vulnerable to breaching broadcasting standards where camera crews essentially "piggy-back" on the power of authority figures, which the authority considered had happened in this instance.

In the programme, a police boat approached 'boaties' about optional breath-testing, including the complainant, and the footage "breached the complainant's privacy in a way that was not justified by any overriding public interest factors".