New Zealand's major centres are becoming even more expensive to live in, according to a major international survey.

Mercer's study of 214 cities found Auckland was the 56th most expensive city in the world and Wellington 74th.

The annual survey compares the cost of more than 200 items, including housing, food and transport, in relation to the cost in New York. It is designed for major companies and governments transferring workers overseas.

Both Auckland and Wellington leapt 62 places from last year in the annual report.

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Mercer principal Nathalie Constantin-Metral said the highly significant leap in New Zealand rankings followed increases in accommodation cost and demand, as well as a strong Kiwi dollar.

And there was food for thought for the huge numbers of New Zealanders seeking a brighter future across the Tasman - the cost of living in all Australian cities surveyed jumped up.

Sydney was the world's 11th most expensive cities followed by Melbourne (15th), Perth (19th), Canberra (23rd), Brisbane (24th) and Adelaide (27th).

That was partly down to a significant increase in demand for rental properties, Ms Constantin-Metral said.

"Coupled with very limited availability, the result has been very tight markets and increased prices.

The survey had better news for Kiwis seeking new lives in Europe, with a decline in the cost of living as the eurozone crisis hits the continent.

London is the most expensive British city at 25 on the list, down seven places from last year.

The most expensive European city was Moscow, in fourth place, followed by Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland.

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Paris dropped 10 spots to 37th, Rome eight to 42nd and Athens 24 to 77th.

More than 60 per cent of Asian cities moved up in rankings, with Tokyo taking top spot.

Angolan capital Luanda came second and Osaka in Japan third.

The cheapest city surveyed was Pakistani port Karachi.

Mercer compiles its data every March.