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This small city situated at the foot of the Snowy Mountains was established in 1849 and quickly became a key city in linking New South Wales to the Snowy Mountains. The discovery of gold in nearby Kiandra helped bring people to the area in the 1860s, with the flat ideal grazing plains of the area encouraging many to stay on and set up farms.
Perhaps the most significant event in Cooma history was the Hydro Electric Scheme devised in 1949 to harness the energy created through capturing and diverting the melting snow of the mountains to the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers in western New South Wales. It employed a staggering 100 000 workers comprised of almost 30 different nationalities, many of whom were European refugees escaping the aftermath of World War II. Many subsequently settled in Cooma, significantly altering the population which today includes descendants of the scheme's migrant workers. Their place in Cooma history has been cemented with the city's Avenue of Flags, where the flags of all countries whose people participated in the scheme are represented.
Industry in Cooma is heavily focused on tourism, and one of the state's first tourism information centres was established here in the 1968 with the sole purpose of promoting the area and surrounding ranges. It is today still popular as a base for people visiting the area for the ski season.